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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 12 "A swooping falcon breaks the back of its prey; such is the precision of its timing."
Falcons are the fastest moving creatures in the world. The fastest recorded speed of a falcon in its stoop is 242 miles per hour. Speeds of 200 mph are normal. I was unable to find the height of their flight, but 3 to 4 miles can't be a bad guess.
Consider the elements involved. There is the power of flight to attain such commanding heights. The clarity of vision to survey both air and land in its contours below while identifying prey. The maneuverability, agility in flight to target and hit the prey with maximum impact.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 11 "A rushing torrent carries boulders on its flood; such is the energy of its momentum."
Although this verse looks familiar to us, it simply bristles with meaning and new thinking. The visual analogy is awesome in its power, but that's the familiar part. The new thinking is in the term "energy." We will come to truly know this term, completely.
What is an army? It is a group of armed warriors, guided by the decisions of a general, coordinated by a chain of command and by clear communications, signals, flags, gongs, indicating advance, retreat, flank, etc. An army in motion is a rushing torrent of human energy.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 10 "In the dynamics of War, there are but these two--indirect and direct--and yet their permutations are inexhaustible. They give rise to each other in a never-ending, inexhaustible circle."
@realDonaldTrump took the most indirect route to the office of the presidency that anyone has ever taken. Consider, first he mastered the art of building buildings. Second, he mastered the art of writing bestselling books. Third, he became the highest paid speaker ever.
Fourth, he wrote four books on politics and America's future. Let's pause there. Who realizes he wrote four books on politics? I have never mentioned that fact to anyone who wasn't surprised to hear it. Did you know? He gets no credit for this fact. Interesting, isn't it?
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 10 "In the dynamics of War, there are but these two--indirect and direct--and yet their permutations are inexhaustible. They give rise to each other in a never-ending, inexhaustible circle."
Here we are, midway through chapter 5. Yet, we are only now fully empowered to begin to understand chapter 1, and its key verse, 1: 15. How do you argue that any verse is more important than 1: 15? Let's check...
"The Way of War is a Way of Deception. When able, feign inability. When deploying the troops, appear not to be. When near, appear far; when far, appear near. Lure with bait; strike with chaos. If the enemy is full, be prepared. If strong, avoid him....
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 9 "There are but five flavours, and yet their permutations are more than can ever be tasted."
And they are:

1) Spicy
2) Salty
3) Sweet
4) Sour
5) Bitter

Are you a fan of Chinese food? Don't say no, please. It is a simply extraordinary cuisine, and if you want to know why, study the list above, carefully. Have you ever tasted a sweet and sour pork to melt your mind?
The key to experiencing Chinese food is to discover your ability to identify these five flavors, and separate them from each other, even while they were perfectly blended by the chef and are exploding your mouth and being with joy. Are you a fan of broccoli beef?
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 8 "There are but five colours, and yet their permutations are more than can ever be seen."
Theory. It is a thing. The way I map it out is this:

1) Theory
2) Strategy
3) Tactics
4) Execution

It looks like this. I'm strong here, my enemy weak there, I theorize (guess) that attacking where I think he's weak will succeed. My strategy is...and we go from there.
The ancient Chinese had something called color theory. Black, red, green, yellow, white, these were the fundamental colors they employed, and the phenomenal theory they built up around it remains impressive to this day. Yes, I'm a gigantic fan of the why the ancients theorized.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 7 "There are but five notes, and yet their permutations are more than can ever be heard."
I'm not quite sure how I fell into it, but in creating my own commentary, I try very hard to live by the rule: this verse, now. That is, I try not to skip ahead. It's a type of intense focus. Yet, there are times when the rule must be broken. This is such a verse.
There is so much meaning in this verse by itself, I hate to break the rule. But, as you'll see in a moment, we really do require verse 5: 10 in order to place the verse in its context. You should go ahead and read verse 8 and 9 right now, on your own right now. They help.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 6 "The warrior skilled in indirect warfare is infinite as Heaven and Earth, in exhaustible as river and sea, he ends and begins again like sun and moon, dies and is born again like the Four Seasons."
How did I miss this verse, before? I absolutely did. Reading and meditating upon it just now, in preparation to write today's commentary, I have none of that normal sense I usually have, about knowing this verse well. How did I miss it?
Do you remember my rule about how to define a text as 'scripture'? It is when each verse is the most important and powerful verse, until you read the next one which is even more so. Well, for today, this is by far the most important verse in Master Sun's work.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 5 "In warfare engage directly, secure victory indirectly."
I'd like to take this verse, first, in the direction of salesman, selling as an art form. Have you heard of FAB? It stands for Features, Advantages, Benefits. I'm an old school, classically trained salesman. I don't know if this is still taught, but in the old days, always.
And, I do assure you, if done properly, it's powerful, and good. A prospect really does need to know all three, before completing a decision. Done well or poorly, however, who is doing the talking? The salesman is. And, what's he talking about, the thing he wants you to buy.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 4 "With an understanding of weakness and strength, an army can strike like a millstone cast at an egg."
We have been taught by Master Sun, in many previous verses, about spending time in the temple planning, comparing. Out scripture is called The Art of War, by the English-speaking world. We might easily have named it The Science of War. All those calculations!
Another type of name might have been more spiritual, something like Meditations on Victory, or Visualizing Victory. Have you ever read Homer? Or seen any of the representations of his work in movies? Can you picture Athena showing up and guiding Odysseus?
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I’m travelling with six Chinese ladies and my 6yo son. They’re conferencing in #Dublin and made the travel arrangements.

The complete lack of any planning is quite impressive.

We’re now on a coach which costs more than a taxi and takes 1hr. Taxi is 10mins.
A less than smooth progression through security and passport control. The usual suspects of cosmetics and electronic equipment in check-in baggage was to blame at departures.

On arrival, no one had any info on the hotel reservation.
Our decision to take the bus was after 30mins standing outside debating. The debate venue was 10m from the taxi rank, where drivers immediately confirmed €30 and 10mins to hotel. I relayed this information but was ignored. The bus is €11 per person and takes 52mins.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 3 "With a combination of indirect and direct, an army can hold off the enemy undefeated."
The Democrats, and their Republican allies, grew so used to defeating us, sucking the life blood out of America at every step, that they forgot to be indirect about it. What they didn't plan on, was @realDonaldTrump. They were right about us. We let them get away with it.
And we'd never have figured it out on our own, either. So, they were right. They could and did get away with it and didn't even have to be indirect about it. Globalism was good. The jobs were never coming back. America couldn't afford American wages.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 2 "Fighting with many is the same as fighting with few; it is a matter of marshalling men with gongs, identifying them with flags."
For as many times as I've read this verse, it was only this morning that the two action words, "marshalling" and "identifying" seemed even slightly difficult. I think of myself as a good reader, but these terms really aren't easy to decipher. Note to self, be more careful!
So first, the two l's in marshalling are the British spelling. Do NOT let me talk about irrational spelling, it has nothing to do with our topic. The word identifying though requires more help. We've talked about the historical commentators before, there are 11 great ones.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 1 "Master Sun said: managing many is the same as managing few; it is a question of division."
While so many of Master Sun's sayings have become deeply embedded within my mind and heart, this one, and the next to come, hold a very special place for me. A strange epiphany struck over it and no one was more surprised than me when it happened.
I was 33 and the year was 1994. I'm pretty sure that, after my 1987 reading of the Giles translation, I hadn't studied Master Sun again until I purchased Sawyer's translation in 1993. Other than Gordon Gecko's recommendation, I didn't know why I was reading it, either.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 5: 28 "This is all a matter of forms and dispositions."
Two armies meet. They're in sloping lowlands, at the foot hills rising to the East. It is the still-twilit moment before the Sun's rays crest. Your army has the advantage, marching North on high ground. Your enemy is marching South lower down.
Just as the sun's light starts to glint off your enemy's armor, you give the order for the flags and drums to aim straight at the enemy in still controlled quick time. You will not let the enemy escape. Not wise enough to know he's already defeated, their general orders charge.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 27 "A victorious army is like pent-up water crashing a thousand fathoms into a gorge."
Do you know what a fathom is, as in actually know? Until a few minutes ago I didn't. I've heard the word all my life, and had the general idea, 'it's a measurement of some sort, it measures distance somehow.' I knew it had history behind it, somehow. That's all I knew.
So almost without thinking about it, as I commenced to write today's commentary, it finally hit me, 'you should know what a fathom is.' I love Wikipedia, don't you? As a boy, my family owned an ancient copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica that always taunted me.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 25 & 26 "25 - A victorious army is like a pound weight in the scale against a grain; 26 - a defeated army is like a grain in the scale against a pound weight."

Today's focus is #SunTzu 4: 26.
I'll show you the exact number in a moment, but first, let me just type in exactly how much a grain of sand weighs: nine hundred seventy hundred-millionths of a pound. Yes, I had to look that up. There's no way to read these digits without help: 0.00000970 pounds.
You can't imagine how stupid such numbers make me feel. I'm looking right at it, and it still makes no sense to me. What is a hundred-millionth of something? I'm going to go look again. One hundred-millionth = 0.0000001. Six zeroes right of the decimal and a one in seventh slot.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 25 & 26 "25 - A victorious army is like a pound weight in the scale against a grain; 26 - a defeated army is like a grain in the scale against a pound weight."

Today's focus is #SunTzu 4: 25.
How did it happen? I grew up afraid of winning. I never wanted to crush a grain with my pound. It was as if winning was bad. Worse, wrong. Even evil. It was somehow honorable to lose, dishonorable to win. Topsy-turvy is almost too weak a term.
I have a theory to offer. I knew what it was to lose, as I did so in almost everything. Checkers, no good. Ping pong, no good, at least at first. I still don't play a good chess game. Girls, they didn't like me. Popularity, that was for others. Me, I was a loser, and it hurt.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 24 "Earth determines measurement; measurement determines estimation; estimation determines calculation; calculation determines comparison; comparison determines victory."
Let's place ourselves in context again. Do you remember verse 1: 2? Have you memorized its list:

1) The Way
2) Heaven
3) Earth
4) Command
5) Discipline

If you have that list in mind, you can see that today's verse focuses on 3, 4 & 5. It assumes 1 & 2.
Yesterday, Master Sun gave us these five steps indicating tactics:

1) Measure
2) Estimate
3) Calculate
4) Compare
5) Win

I don't know why, but I like them more as verbs, as commands, go do this now!, than I do in their noun form as things that happen.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 23 "In War, there are Five Steps: Measurement, Estimation, Calculation, Comparison, Victory."
If we grant our text its age, at 500 BC, here we are 2,500 years later. Yet, tell me, where have you ever been given such crystal clear instructions? I haven't, not anywhere else. So much so, that my mind fights against the clarity. Does yours?
Yo, Scopelliti, measure first. Measure twice. Measure until your measurements are certain. Measure. Okay, now, estimate. You measure what's there. You estimate what isn't there, but is needed. Now, calculate. Can you bring what's needed per your estimation? Cool! Oh wait...
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 22 "The Skillful Strategist cultivates the Way and preserves the law; thus he is a master of victory and defeat."
This verse offers wonderful twists and turns. It forced me to whip out several of my other translators, and I'll share one insightful commentary shortly. The phrase that I got stuck over was "preserves the law;" I just kept seeing Wyatt Earp.
As I bopped from one version to the next, it struck me that in all these decades I don't remember ever reading about Chinese law. And no, not today's Communist Party apparatus, I get that. And yes, I know about the emperors and their infinite will and power to command.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 21 “The victorious army is victorious first and seeks battle later; the defeated army does battle first and seeks victory later.”
If I were a student in this class, there'd be no way I hadn't read the entire chapter already. Well, I'd have read the entire book, of course. I really did do that, too, when I was in college. After buying my textbooks, which I hated, I would go to the library, which I loved.
The greatest trick I ever learned was to read the primary sources for any class. If you're in college now, give it a try. It may well be the difference between a B and an A. Seriously. I'd check out 5 primary sources and I'd always end up finding one that was my favorite.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4: 20 "The Skillful Warrior takes his stand on invulnerable ground; he lets slip no chance of defeating the enemy."
One of the ways we interpret Master Sun's work is to take the ideas one at a time. I want you to learn this mode of analysis. Look:

1) The Skillful Warrior
2) His stand
3) Invulnerable ground
4) Lets slip no chance
5) Of defeating the enemy
We begin. Are you the Skillful Warrior? I am. I've been at war for my entire life. As John Fogerty so kindly explains, "I ain't no senator's son." I have never worn a proud uniform. I am no soldier. But all the soldiers I meet honor me with the rank of warrior, skilled warrior.
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John Minford, #SunTzu 4:17-19 "17 - His victories are flawless; 18 - His victory is flawless because it is inevitable; 19 - he vanquishes an already defeated enemy."

Today's focus is on #SunTzu 4:19
It is, perhaps, one of the funniest aspects of film that we put forward the idea of a fair fight, when it literal, physical combat for your life. Let's work on that for a moment. In sport, say something like the Indy 500, the definitions of the race cars are incredible.
The precise specifications end up defining the difference between fair play and cheating. Not the term "fair play." Then, on the other hand, we have war. There is no such thing as fair play in war, and there is no cheating. In war, advantage is sought relentlessly, without limit.
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