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Just Stay Alive

Jiu-jitsu, my instructor says, is about survival. This is one of the things he says that resonates most with me.

Since I’ve started training I’ve said that my philosophy on yoga, jiu-jitsu and life is that as long as I’m breathing, nothing can have gone that wrong. This is an aspirational thing to say, too: it reminds me of how good I have it. Even when times are darkest, I’m surrounded with hope and possibility.

Let me come right out and say that I’ve always had friends who struggled with depression. If you’ve ever been in that particular mud, you know how hard it can be to see the world from the perspective I’ve just described.

What I am trying to stay here is that it matters very much to me that you stay alive.

I’m not trying to make a grand proposition of this statement — it matters very much to me that you stay alive — I’m just trying to state a fact. And it’s true basically whoever you are. Maybe you’re a close friend of mine and you know this already.

[I thought about walking out to this song tonight, because the Mountain Goats are from Durham, and because the song is great, and because this stuff has been on my mind lately.]


Maybe we’re not even close friends. Maybe you’re an acquaintance, and there are dozens of people who know you better than I do. Maybe I don’t even know you. It still matters very much to me that you stay in the world. And think of all the other people who know far better than I do what unique contribution you make to our human experiment.

When I’ve lost people to depression and the self-destructive behavior it engenders, I’m always struck at how the people who felt most alone were always surrounded by people who really cared. It can be hard to see, just like you can’t always see the shore when you’re in a boat. The shore is always there.

Jiu-jitsu is about survival. Jiu-jitsu is life, and life is jiu-jitsu, and sometimes your life has to be about focusing on survival. That’s your jiu-jitsu for the day.

If you do nothing else today — including coming to my match tonight, although you should do that too — read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Nye describes a scene where a father is crossing a rainy street carefully, holding  his son on his shoulder as he crosses the wide expanse.

She intricately describes the care he takes protecting his cargo — until the end of the poem, when you realize she’s not just talking about one father and one son.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

The road will only be wide. The rain will never stop falling. We’re not going to be able to live in this world without taking care of each other.

Jiu-jitsu is about survival. How you do in jiu-jitsu matters very much to me, and probably to a bunch of other people you don’t even know. Think about it.


About Jeff

I write, work for social justice, listen to music and grapple. That's about it for now.

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