Friday, July 26, 2013

Head Knowledge Is Hollow

Head knowledge really is hollow. When I read works from those reputed to be the best scholars of our day, I can easily discern whether their insights are anchored in their own real-world experiences, or whether they're merely cribbed from the testimonies of others (academic or not), or even just a set of intellectual associations thought-up during those long hours in front of their computer screens. Head knowledge is hollow. I bring my students to harvest the berries heavy on the branches of the brush around a local university, because those inside the surrounding buildings believe they get knowledge from reading about our kind of harvests... and head knowledge is hollow. I openly challenge those who protest for change, even though I may support their causes, because I see that any protest staged as an 'awareness campaign' is all head, and already hollow. Real knowledge is not cerebral. It's dispersed throughout the muscles and the sensorium. It's truly embodied. You can only give this to others by directing them into the types of experiential encounters where such knowledge is known to derive from. A good teacher understands how to do this, well


  1. Love the post, it is a strong post coming from you because you have first hand experience with putting very much effort in the development of head knowledge, also with being in environments where there are a lot of people around you with much head knowledge. Though I see that people that have that drive to develop intellectually only have to redirect that same drive to develop spiritually and then they will be more balanced and complete. But trying to encourage these individuals to do so is a difficult process because they already think they know it all. I encounter it quite often as I do notice a person who has a lot of head knowledge walk through the door, he will just assume that there is nothing to learn from me because I am younger or not as well dressed.

  2. I wrote this after having had a heated debate with one of my older cousins. She had been writing letters to all the major news networks, insisting that they do more coverage about some new standards set by the EPA for use of known cancer-causing toxins on oil crops like canola and flax. I told her that she shouldn't be protesting to the news networks unless she's willing to do something about it herself, and quit buying those products. This resulted in her and her friends ganging up with all kinds of stupid excuses about why they're forced to buy poisonous products, and insisting that protests and news media are effective tools for educating others. I think it's bullshit, and they should just buy organic products. God knows they can afford it, bunch of yuppies. Anyway, this whole debate reminded me how satisfied many people are with their totally ineffective head knowledge, which most of the time has nothing to do with lived realities. So I wrote this post on my Facebook wall, but I also posted it here and on my personal blog, because I think it's important. Theory is only that. Without practical application, it's really useless, and probably erroneous too. And you get all these critics out there, who - like you mentioned - think they know everything. But what can they actually do? For real? All their head knowledge is worthless, nothing more than a little fantasy they're enjoying. Meanwhile, they lose out on the opportunity to gain perspective and skill through actual experience. I may be a decade older than you, have gone farther in school, I may be more travelled, and I may even have more head knowledge about various martial arts... but when it comes right down to it, you are stronger than me, faster than me, more flexible than me, your techniques are clean, you can move your body in ways that I can't. You are obviously the better martial artist, and therefore my sifu. And you can guide others to be stronger, faster, more flexible, develop cleaner techniques, and perhaps do some amazing things with their bodies. You lead by example, and it's hard work to follow. Most people don't want to do that hard work. Most people would rather watch UFC and then talk theory about what they themselves cannot perform


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