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The Pie That Wasn’t a Pie

posted Jan 15, 2016, 10:35 AM by Eric Banks

“Esse quam videri”

 I must have been in about 1st or 2nd grade, and like pretty much every other boy in my age group at that time, I was into dinosaurs, Godzilla, robots, and spaceships.  Morning, noon, or night, I couldn’t get enough of them, but there was also something else that captured my attention, a secret I’ve never told anyone before…something…a little odd… 

Almost more than I hoped to own an actual robot or dino, or dino-robot, I wanted…a pie.  Pie.  But wait, no, not a real pie; I wanted a fake one.  I dreamed of making a beautiful, creamy, delicious-looking, but wholly artificial pastry, one fabricated not from fruits and sweet stuff, but from thick white shaving cream or some other velvety, inedible fluff.  I was gonna make this happen—I acquired a pie tin, and I even went as far as whittling down a fat brown crayon to, you know, simulate chocolate shavings… 

I know, right?

Weird, kid.

Sure, mom would have cooked us up one or purchased a tasty pie if I asked, but that’s not what I desired.  I just wanted one to look at and to display in my room.  That’s all.  Not to eat, and not even to throw at my sisters a la Three Stooges style.  It just had to look good.

But isn’t there a problem with just “looking good” and not being functional for anything but eye-pie?  Well, depends.  Let’s fast forward a few decades and consider the following.

I don't even recall where I saw it, but in mid-November of last year, I came across the above Latin phrase and like any resonating truth, this one struck me on many levels, and it has continued to echo in my mind since that day.  The meaning can apply to every aspect of life but in terms of our martial arts training, understanding it is essential and imperative.

Back in the late 1990s, I was teaching a rather timid young teen and his dad asked me some questions after class and ended his monologue by saying he didn't want his son to be a "paper tiger".  I replied that in the particular organization to which I belonged at the time, there were no "paper tigers", no practitioners who looked fierce but in actuality were all show, i.e., pies that weren’t really pies.  Of course, I was incorrect.  There are paper tigers all over the place, in every art, in every organization; this is just a given.  I've met some, and at times, I've been one! 

Paper tigers, like fake pies, look really good until tested.  They may don a nice or, better yet, a shabby belt, or wear a crisp new uniform, and they certainly look the part and can talk the talk, but when it comes down to walkin’ the bueno.  

Most normal humans will recognize when they’re not bein’ a real pie.  When we realize this, that we are not exactly what we appear to be, what we think we are, or all that we believe we could be, we're confronted with just two choices: maintain the façade, or evolve.  

Maintaining, staying the way we are is too easy, so comfortable, and deadly to the greater things that we could do and be, while evolving, changing, growing and becoming are sometimes beyond difficult and definitely not for the weak-willed paper tigers among us, or within us. 

For some, the choice is a no-brainer: they choose to maintain because they don't believe they need to change. Or, perhaps, they don't believe they can change.  Or, their identity, self-worth, or economic survival is integral to the image they portray and so to transform into anything other would mean toppling everything they’ve built and everything they’ve known themselves to be through the years.

But for others, for the ones who desire real strength of character, of mind, and of body, and of will and of integrity, the decision to evolve is instinctual, and the challenge is a daily undertaking.  They stumble, they fall, they slide, they lose ground, but they keep on fighting and growing, they keep evolving and slowly morph into the true solid substance that can supplant the hollow image of self surrounding them.  They understand that the firmer, often hidden essences of a thing, of a belief, of a person, are of much more import than the appearance of the thing, and so they shun the superficial in favor of the deep and the profound.

In the context of “Esse quam videri”, which is better, maintaining or evolving?  The answer is purely personal and not obvious for it depends solely on you and on you alone.

To find your answer, simply apply "Esse quam videri" to the things that matter to you.  For instance, does being loving matter?  If so, run “loving” through the phrase.  What about being loved, being healthy, faithful, strong, peaceful, having the ability to defend loved ones and self, etc., etc.?  How do you measure up?

And now, what will you do with what you’ve may have discovered about yourself?  Maintain and stay the same, or evolve?

I choose to evolve. No, I must evolve.