Basic Training--and Training, Basically

Be all you can be.

            --United States Army recruiting slogan 1980-2001

They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow: They rightly do inherit heaven's graces And husband nature's riches from expense; They are the lords and owners of their faces, Others but stewards of their excellence. The summer's flower is to the summer sweet Though to itself it only live and die, But if that flower with base infection meet, The basest weed outbraves his dignity: For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. 


The rose is without why, It blooms because it blooms. It doesn't heed itself, Nor ask if anyone sees it.

                                    --Angelus Silesius 

rose in bloom.jpeg

Training is conditioning for doing determined things in determined settings in order to achieve determined ends. It is not pursued for its own sake, but always for the sake of something else.  

To train is to make "fit" for doing something, "qualified" or "proficient" at doing it, able to do it effectively with reliable regularity.

So, for example, to train a seal, a marine animal, to balance a ball on its nose is to make that seal proficient at balancing a ball on its nose given the cue to do so, and to be relied upon to do just that when so cued. 

seal with ball.jpeg

Similarly, to train a different kind of seal, the kind that can be used to establish beachheads on enemy shores or conduct search-and-destroy missions or accomplish similar military tasks, is to make that kind of seal proficient at doing just that sort of thing given the orders to do so.

Navy Seals.jpeg

One trains plants by bending, pruning, and tying their various parts to make them go the way one wants them to go.

One trains animals by bending, pruning, and tying their behaviors to make them go the way one wants them to go.

One trains people the same way one trains animals or plants.

Training always comes from outside what is specifically being trained, from a rosebush to a seal (either animal or human) to someone certified proficient in Information Technology (maybe by Phoenix University, at least according to one of their most obnoxious commercials).

Training is not for its own sake, but always for the sake of something else (which may be no more than to earn money so one can feed oneself.) Training is itself a goal-directed behavior, one for which one can also be trained.

If we wanted to, we could train ourselves to call such training to train "meta-training," and then find ways to get certified in it perhaps.

A rosebush needs no training to bloom with roses. It just needs to be given the soil down into which it can send its roots, and the heavens up into which it can open its blossoms. Neither do the roses that bloom from such bushes need any training in blooming. They just bloom.

In blooming, the rose itself gives not one whit whether bees, breezes, or breaths are attracted to it by its beauty or odor or some other of its aspects, and then bear its pollen to others of its kind so that kind might be perpetuated.

None of that is of any concern whatsoever to the rose itself--or to the bee, breeze, or breath that visits it, then transports its pollen to other roses, or to rhododendrons, rodents, or rose-clippings in the recycling containers of rosebush trainers, none of which potential pollen receptacles gives any more of a whit about the matter than the rose itself does.

Nor do any of those things give a whit about themselves in doing what they do just by their very natures.

Caring neither about themselves nor about what they may be good for, roses just bloom because they bloom, as the Angel of Silesias knew.

And bees buzz because they buzz, breezes blow because they blow, breaths breathe because that's what breaths do.

None of them has to be drug into doing what they do by nature.

That's what the verb train means: to drag into doing what otherwise what is being trained would not do.

The verb train derives from the noun form of the same word, as when we speak of the train of a wedding gown or the trains for carrying freight that often hinder our passage at railroad crossings, the warnings at which we have been trained to heed.

The noun itself derives from French trainer, "to drag, draw, or pull," and before that from a back-formation of Latin tractus, past-participle of trahere, "to drag or draw," as an angry father might drag a uncooperative and screaming child along behind him.

Roses do not need to be trained to bloom. They just do so, if nothing gets in their way.

They can, however, be trained to fester, and thereby to reek. Roses no less than Shakespeare’s lillies can be trained to tester for the sake of reeking far worse than even the smelliest weed.

If for some reason one wants ill-reeking roses—maybe to discourage passing children and other potential rose-thieves—that’s useful to know.

By its own nature, training is coercive, not conducive. As such, it has a great potential for twisting and turning and ruining what it trains. It is a superior weed-producer.

To keep the weed-engendering potential of training within bounds, one must pass by and beyond all training. Of itself, training respects no limits, including the limits set by the nature of what is being trained.

In that regard, training is anything but educational.