Thursday, November 10, 2011

Zen and the Art of Driving

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Driving in Sao Paulo is a bit like playing roller derby in a metal box. I'm pretty sure there are traffic laws here, but no one seems to know (or care) what they are. Motorcycles create lanes wherever there is space enough between cars. Trucks and buses merge into gridlock without blinkers, without even checking their mirrors, knowing any vehicle in the way will just have to move or risk being crushed. Stop signs are often viewed as suggestions rather than rules. In the two months and change since I've been living in Brazil, I've seen more motor vehicle accidents at the intersection outside of my apartment than I have during any other two month period in my life.

Maria and I spent the long holiday weekend escaping this madness whenever possible. We took our little Fiat to the beaches of Santos--the weather was considerably cooler than the meteorologists predicted, but still nice enough to enjoy a hearty lunch of feijoada on the street.

Another point of interest in our journey to Santos was the 4th Annual Festival of Japanese Culture. Brazil has a long history with the Japanese, and there are more of them here than anywhere else in the world outside of Japan. The first immigrants came in 1908, and in fact, the martial art I study--jiu-jitsu--was brought to the country by Mitsuyo Maeda in 1914.

Unfortunately, most of the good food was already gone by the time we arrived, but we were able to get our fill of yakissoba, kabuki theatre, and demonstrations of aikido and kendo.

(Apparently, this kid is supposed to be a radish that is so well planted it takes an entire village to pull. Yeah, weird, I know.)

Spirituality plays an important role in Japanese martial arts. Zen, meditation, mushin, it all works to calm the student's mind so that he or she may act or react without thought or emotion. The arts may appear violent, people being thrown through the air and sliced at with swords, but they are no more violent than a river. On the surface, you see rapids and waves and vicious currents, but underneath, the water--like the mind--must be calm and flowing smoothly.

I needed that reminder before braving the city traffic again.

1 comment:

  1. I'm kind of stuck on the "firmly planted radish" thing. I do love that you pick out these strange vegetable things and share them, though.


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