Everybody knows Mars. He’s the hulking, ominously silent biker every fool assumes will be on their side in a bar fight. A lot of people slip Mars a twenty or a pack of smokes while gesturing furtively toward the intended recipient of an ass-kicking. Not too many people walk up to him, bow deeply, and say, “Teach me, Sensei.”
That bar fight wasn’t won in the two seconds it took to swing a chair. It was won in the twenty years of experience that preceded it.
In his later years, Picasso drew a sketch in five minutes and said that it had taken him a lifetime to draw it. Picasso, ever self-identified with the bullfighter, knew Mars.
The discipline, the precision, the daily practice toward an intended outcome: these are the traits of a soldier. For that soldier, these habits can mean the difference between life and death. Not so for the rest of us. Artists, engineers, parents: we don’t live in foxholes. We’re safe. For us, discipline and practice aren’t important. They’re only the difference between life and death for our goals and dreams. We downplay it. We act like life isn’t a war zone. We pretend it’s not pistols at dawn against entropy, but it is. Every. Damn. Day.
The samurai cultivates a posture of preparedness. An attitude of adapting to the moment can be used in reaction to everyday circumstances, situations, even thoughts.
Like many creative people, I often suffer from idea overload. Call it metaphorical mercury poisoning. I’m better at starting projects than at finishing them. I know that Mars can be invoked for drive and completion of action, but as a peace-loving Libra, I hesitated to invite him to my party. (Quick! Hide the pool cues and bar stools!) However, hermeticism involves paying calls on all the planetary spheres, so I, ahem, rang his bell.
And a teacher opened the door.
He knows how to aim, and he knows precisely when to let the arrow fly. And he makes his students repeat it until they get it right.
If you need the daily persistence to pursue mastery:
combined with an eye for trajectory:
I think you know whose bell to ring.
Draw the lamen; conjure the archangel; recite the Orphic hymn. Then, wait. Contemplate the seals of Mars. Have your target in sight, because he’s bringing arrows.