The Case for Care in the Face of Sympathy

I come from a rough neighborhood; that’s no secret.  Where I grew up, people were gruff, rough, and tough.  In fact, here’s a typical greeting; and seriously, no bullshit, verbatim: “Joe!  How the hell are you, you fat fucking bastard?  Life treating you good or what?”

Realness.  You know this guy cares about Joe; asking him how he is with a not so subtle reminder that he should probably eat less pizza and start walking more.  And, to get on ancestry dot-com to find his father, because all bastards should know who their dad is.

Ah, I miss that.  No fake, pretentious, politically correct, empty, hoping I’m better than you are, kind of shit greeting: “Oh, hey Joe.  Good to see you.”  No it’s not.  Shit, I hope he doesn’t talk to me.  How long does it take to make a latte?  Come on!

Yep.  The atmosphere just got a bit shittier.

Down south, you could be on the side of the road in the rain, changing a flat tire and people will drive by and say, “Oh, bless his heart.”  Useless.  Meanwhile, in Philly, they’ll pull over and help you change that tire, cursing you the whole time, for getting them wet.

How about this from Anthony Jeselnik?  I think this really hits the nail on the head.  He says, “People see some horrible tragedy in the world and they run to the internet.  They run to their social media; facebook, twitter, whatever they got, and they all write down the exact same thing: ‘My thoughts and prayers …’.  Do you know what that’s worth?  Fucking nothing.  Your’e not giving your time, your money, or even your compassion.  All you’re doing is saying, “Don’t forget about me today.”

Funny, but there’s a good bit of truth to that.  I get it though.  When there’s nothing you can actually do, you want to offer some words of sympathy.  However, put some thought into it, instead of some canned bullshit words.

Now, at this point in my life, I’m about 50% removed from inner city Philly, so I’ve come to understand that most people are fragile, easily offended, and will gossip about you to anyone who will listen about how bad of person you are, because you use “Fuck” as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, and pronoun and anywhere else it’ll fit.  Everyone has some kind of an accent.  Cursing and sarcasm is part of mine.  But, in many places, it scares the shit out of people, so I try to curb the accent a bit.  I fail, a lot.

But!  But, I cannot bring myself to say empty things, like “Prayers”.  Ugh!  No, I’ll say things like this: “I’ll mow your lawn, you can stay at my house, I’ll pick up your groceries, I’m on my way over with bourbon, I’ll walk your dog, take your trash out, change your tire, pick up your kids from practice, give you money, and sit with you at the hospital.”

The weird thing is … I often get silence or a blank stare as if people don’t recognize honest sincerity and care.  Remember Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, when Stan (William Shatner) asks, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?”  And she responds with what is truly important to her, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.”  Crickets.  To break the awkward silence, she finally says, “And … world peace.”  To which, everyone cheers.

We’ve taken the care out of care and replaced it with, “Hugs”, “Prayers”, “world peace”, and “Bless your heart”.  Sympathy with no actual help.

It’s like, if I say “Bless his heart”, I’m excused from all guilt of not doing anything.  It’s like saying four hail Mary’s or something.  Not sure how that works, but I’ve heard things.

Sometimes we can’t help or simply don’t want to and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  It is what it is.  We’re not obligated to the universe in any way.  Sometimes we help and sometimes, we don’t feel like getting wet or putting our lives in danger or on hold to help someone.  It’s okay.  We’re human.  No worries.

But please, instead of “hugs”, say something real or nothing at all.  And please don’t hit the “like” button.  My fucking dog just died, dumbass.  He was an ugly, fat fucking bastard, but we loved him.

With all sincerity, Namaste.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Kung Fu in 5 Easy Steps

“I know Kung Fu”, said Neo (The Matrix).  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just “jack-in” and upload knowledge directly into our brains?  Is it upload or download?  I don’t know.  But, a four-year degree is completed in an hour with no effort.  Martial Artist, Yogi, or pianist.  Just sit back and relax.  Hmm.

The technology for jacking-in like Neo doesn’t exist yet.  Or … does it?  I can’t keep the timeline right.  In the meantime, here are five easy steps to becoming a Kung Fu master:

Step 1: Don’t train in Kung Fu.  It takes way too long.  Lots of work too and you could get hurt.

Step 2: Watch Ip Man I and II.  Three sucked.  And, maybe some Kung Fu YouTube videos.  It’s pretty much the same as earning a black belt.

Step 3: Do some calisthenics and stretching at least once a week.  Not a requirement.  Just a suggestion.

Step 4: Subscribe to Kung Fu magazine to make sure you’re aware of the most up to date way to do a front kick.  It’s always changing.

Step 5: Buy a black belt online. Now you’re official. And don’t forget to put that Kung Fu sticker on your car window, so everyone knows.

Congratulations!

Neo was right.  He did know Kung Fu.  But, knowing isn’t being.  Being takes more than just knowledge.

It takes hard work and time.  Actually, that’s the literal translation of Kung Fu. It takes heart and soul.  It’s passion, belief, diligence, perseverance, feel, discipline, practice, and immersion. We must embrace the philosophy and approach.  It has to be in us if we’re to effectively employ it outwardly.

‘Ever hear a really good blues guitarist do his thing?  Yeah, it’s like that.

The knowing of Kung Fu is not Kung Fu.  We must be it.

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Dangerous Drishti

In Yoga, Drishti is a focused gaze and relates to the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana (concentration), bringing us to the here and now in reality, as it truly is.  There are actually nine Drishtis and one night, I cycled through them all, with danger being the vehicle.

Back when the Breakfast Club was still in theatres, our martial arts school held its annual Christmas Party in a local parks & recreation gymnasium.  Part of our set-up included a big banner that was to be hung from the rafters.  Two of our elder students were seasoned steeplejacks; you know, those crazy people who climb cooling towers, church steeples, and the outside of tall buildings to do repairs.

They got a step ladder to gain access to the basketball rim on each side of the court and climbed the retractable framing system up to the steel truss that spanned the width of the building, some thirty-five feet above the floor. The truss was a zig-zag frame, that provided just enough crouching space for a very small contortionist.  But these two 40-something grown men, made it look easy.

After the event, most of the guests had left as well as the two steeplejacks.  But, there was the banner, still hanging.  I was seventeen at the time, which means I was basically a super hero.  I thought, “If those two old guys can do it, so can I.”  And no need for a step ladder.  I was able to grab rim back then.  I pulled myself up and began the ascent into the rafters without much thought.

As I was untying the first string of the banner, I slipped just a bit and caught myself.  Suddenly, it all became very clear as to where I was.  Adrenaline flushed through my body and I froze.  My vision was like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  You know; the dolly zoom camera technique where the periphery gets distorted and stretched, while the focus point becomes closer and sharper.

I couldn’t turn around and go back because, well … I didn’t have the skills of a steeplejack.  My fingers and forearms hurt from the grip and my legs were aching from squatting.  I was sweating and shaking, wide-eyed and heart thumping.

The floor looked like it was a hundred feet down and the distance to the other side might as well have been a mile, but I couldn’t stay here.  I had to move, but I was stuck.  There were people down on the floor, but they didn’t seem real.  No one seemed to notice me and I didn’t yell for yelp.  Not sure why.

Juke Box Hero began to play in my head, “It was a one-way ticket; only one way to go …”  Yeah, songs and movie scenes play in my head at the oddest times.

I closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and embraced the suck.  I looked up and the other side didn’t seem as far. I can do this.  Hand, foot, breath, other hand, other foot, breath: I moved slowly and deliberately with my Drishti (s) being just inches in front of me.

When I came to the other end of the banner, I untied it and let it drop to floor, without watching it fall.  There was no way I was going to go through this without accomplishing what I came up here for.  Done.

At the other end, I climbed down the retractable framing of the backboard and did a hang-drop from the rim to the floor.  I looked up, took a mental picture, turned and walked away.

Nothing focuses us and puts us in the now like fear.  As scary and intense as that experience was, every part of me was alive and focused down to my mitochondria.  Everything inside me was united towards a single goal.  Quite exhilarating actually, but I don’t recommend it.

There are better vehicles than danger.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash. 

When is Someday?

When I was a kid, my parents and extended family would throw around the word “someday” as if it was a magical destination.  “Someday, my ship will come in.”  “Yeah, we’ll do that; someday.”

Everyone seemed to be okay with this, but me.  As if saying “someday”, sedated them.  I quickly developed a dislike for “someday; a word of appeasement, not of action.  It was hopeless hope.  Someday meant it’s not going to happen, but … whatever.

“Someday” is in the future and the future isn’t real.  Not yet.  It will be; it can be; but not right now.  The past isn’t real either.  Not anymore.  It was, but not right now.  Only now is now and we can’t get to an actual “someday” without it.

But when is “now”?  Now is always.  It was then, it is now, and it will be tomorrow.

Without now, someday is just an abstract thought.  In martial arts, a black-belt is merely a symbol of achievement; a result earned through the process.  In Aikido or Hapkido, the “Do” is “the way”; living, studying, learning, and training in the process.  That’s where the mastery lies, not in the result.

So, if we’re going to have a goal, then the goal should be the way, because the way is the goal.  A graduated continuum of the “now”.  Do this right and “someday” becomes today.  In fact, we’ll lose the need for someday altogether, because we’re living it.

Now that’s an achievement!

Enjoy the journey.

Photo by Basil Samuel Lade on Unsplash.