20% Go, 80% Norishige

Introduced first in 1927, by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, it states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa — Wikipedia, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

This little bit of physics is I think the most important fact on the planet, and it has wide ranging applications.

The first direct ramification of Heisenberg’s work is that some information is unknowable. 

It should be like the clouds parting and a sunbeam piercing through direct to your forehead while an angelic choir sings. Heisenberg has told you that it is a fundamental property of reality that some questions have no good answers.

That is something to carry around through life, because human nature encourages us to believe that if you can ask the question then someone can answer it. And that if the answer is not satisfactory, it means that the person giving the answer is flawed and we should seek out a new answer any time the answer is deemed not sufficient.

Doctor shopping is a form of confirmation bias wherein the person with the question, in this case, “What is wrong with me?” has the answer in their mind already. They will seek out expert after expert until they find someone who confirms what they already believe to be true.

This works in politics as well, as people will shop for politicians until they find a demagogue who confirms their most simplistic beliefs, or their deepest and darkest fears and biases. Once they find someone who will tell them what they want to hear, they will reject any evidence that this politician is wrong.

Whenever uncomfortable facts rub up against confirmation bias, a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance takes place. When placed in the position of a belief you want to hold, vs. uncomfortable facts that force you to discharge that belief, your brain will seek to resolve the discomfort in several ways. Most frequently, people attack and reject the information that is forcing them to reevaluate their closely held belief. This of course causes them large amounts of damage because they continue to maintain an internal reality that is not in harmony with external facts. 

Evidence always needs to be measured up to what we know, and then one of the two things needs to happen: the evidence needs to be dismissed because it does not hold up, or our internal model of reality needs to be updated in order to accomodate the evidence, no matter how uncomfortable it is to do so. We call that science and it is a good thing. 

With antique swords, we run into a situation that the experts have complained about. 

[Yukimitsu, Norishige and Masamune:] these three master swordsmiths rank almost equally in terms of historical placement, status, and background nourishing them, and the three different attributions are actually pointing to the identical conclusion under the different nominations.

Frankly, it would be most desirable that conclusions such as “either Yukimitsu, Masamune, or Norishige” could be accepted ; but in this world such an indecisive judgment would never gain the public consent and satisfaction. Thus, the naming of an exclusive maker was forced to meet the public expectation, which is almost asking for an impossible. — Sato Kanzan

Now we see the problem. 

We do not have a time machine and we cannot go back and get a firm answer on some of these things. Kanzan wants to establish some degree of looseness in his attributions because in some cases no clear answer is possible.

Heisenberg above prepares us for this: that some questions have no good answers. That some answers can only be issued as a statement of probability. 

However, in spite of physics, reality, and expert testimony, collectors still demand absolute answers to difficult questions. Thus the judge will in these borderline cases find whatever detail he can in order to tilt to one direction or another. 

In some cases, an answer can be obtained that is clear and singular, but in others it is more mysterious. What Kanzan is getting at here is that the distinction between the answers in most cases is not as important as people want to believe it to be anyway. In his words, the conclusion of Norishige, Yukimitsu or Masamune are three ways of saying almost the same thing. They mean absolutely top shelf Soshu tradition work. 

It’s important to get your mind into this zone, where you can accept that some questions do not have straight forward answers and that sometimes there is equivalency or that the answer on its face does not mean what you think it means on its face.

If a sword is attributed to a mid ranked school or smith, it is a flag telling you that the judge believed it is mid ranked work first and foremost. You cannot walk away from that with the impression that the judge believed it is a masterpiece for the ages if he attributed it to a middle ranking school. Good, yes, high quality yes, major masterpiece: never.

I bought a Juyo Norishige to Tanobe sensei once and he looked at it with great interest and a big smile on his face. After making a lot of appreciative sounds he look at me and said, “20% Go, 80% Norishige.”

For me, I think that was a compliment because his vague answer indicated that he was prepared to share with me the truth. Sometimes the truth is vague. There is a fear that if you say this to someone who has not studied hard, that they will run away screaming with the impression that nobody knows what they’re talking about because they can’t vomit simple, digestible answers into their mouth like a mother bird feeding a hatchling. 

There is an expectation here that you as a student can graduate into the real world.

Morpheus is offering you the choice of pills, if you choose the blue pill, you go back into your safe world of easy answers for hard questions. If you take the red pill you can expand your mind and start to understand things a lot better.

To get there it is necessary to be comfortable with some vague answers. In the case of Go and Norishige, they are both top ranked smiths with beautiful and distinctive styles but they necessarily overlap. They come from the same region, and they absorbed similar teachings and it is thought that when Go died young that Norishige adopted his son Tametsugu.

So in a work like this Tanobe sensei has noted hallmarks of both smiths and it straddles the line between their work. Given the percentages, the best answer available is Norishige and so the Juyo paper stated Norishige.

If I wanted to live in the simplistic world, then I couldn’t learn any further from this piece. But if I let my mind open up and listen to what he’s saying, I can learn more about both smiths from this piece and I can apply what I learn to both, and to other situations where it may be a similar situation. 

There is always going to be a simple, easily digestible line for public consumption. With a Juyo paper that goes right on the front and if you stop reading that big text that names the smith, it’s OK. You can stop there. 

But if you want to learn more you need to read the commentary, you need to read it literally and you need also to read between the lines and parse out if they are trying to deal with a difficult concept that is defying easy categorization into a simple and clear box. 

There can be deeper meanings to things behind every simple symbol. They are there for your taking if you pay attention to them.

But ultimately you need to be OK with difficult answers to simple questions. Heisenberg tells us that we have to, or else our brains will not be in synch with reality.

Morpheus gives us a choice to bury our head in the sand and seek comfort or to deal with the difficulties of uncomfortable realities, which challenge us but also allow us room to grow. 

I think the choice to make is obvious.

Because, if you demand answers to questions when the answer is truly unknowable a good expert will give you an unsatisfactory answer. Now you have the choice, to evolve, accept and in fact embrace the unsatisfactory answer as the best possible answer, or to doctor shop. If you doctor shop eventually you will find yourself someone who will answer the question how you want it answered.

They will confirm your belief for you. 

It will feel good. So you will want more of that particular drug called Yeah I Was Right I Knew It.

But it will separate you from the path of learning and a chance to see things as they are. It will encourage you to find bad sources of information that will just confirm what you think you already know, in this way you can never grow.

People who just give you confirmation for what you think you already know, these are people who you will sit and place yourself directly in their power. 

Whether that is a politician or a salesman, if they are catering to you instead of challenging you, they are most likley exchanging that confirmation for something they need or want from you. Your vote… your money… your support.

So in this, you need to be careful when you are running around just looking to confirm what you already think you know.