About Me

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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taoism and Buddhism

The Buddha is represented in several different ways. Sometimes Caucasian, sometimes Asian depending upon where in the world he is found. Often a laughing fat man is considered the Buddha.
The Yin Yang symbol is often used to represent Taoism. Many natural dualities—e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot— are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively).

For seven months we have been living, training and learning in the Wudang Taoist Tai Ji and Kungfu Academy. We train in a Taoist temple. Often the temple is visited by Buddhist monks and nuns. Many Taoist monks and nuns live and work here.

Much of the philosophy of our martial arts training is incorporated in the Tao. And much of the Tao is very similar to Buddhism in it's precepts.

We had a Taoist monk here to teach us about Taoism a couple weeks ago. He laid out some things about both schools I thought might be interesting.

I won't get into the whole Taoist "catechism" nor the history of Gautama, who became Buddha. I just want to throw up a simple comparison given by the monk in which each purports to teach us how to live.

To boil it down, each philosophy (I refuse to call them religions as neither are confessional) has three basic "Pearls."

Buddhism's are:
1. Wisdom
2. Patience
3. Compassion

Taoism's are:
1. Compassion
2. Moderation
3. Humility

You can right away see the similarities. Buddha preached "The Middle Path," which could also be considered Moderation.

Both start within ourselves, but in a sense face different directions. Buddhism teaches us how to deal with the world outside of ourselves, while the Tao looks more inward. Another way of looking at them is that Buddhism is more concerned with one's mind while Taoism is more focused towards the body, hence the martial arts component.

Now these are VERY simplistic explanations and I wouldn't want to assert any authority on these words. But it is clear to anyone exposed to these bodies of belief that the keys to being a good person lie within.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is Kungfu. This is What it's Like Here (Thanks to Hani for the Quote)

“The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.” Lao-Tzu

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on Botswana

I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of finishing my Peace Corps service in Botswana.`Haven't written much about that episode of my life but a couple thoughts have been buzzing around my head in recent days.

Peace Corps released a sort of self-congratulatory video celebrating it's 39 years in Botswana. I was amazed to see how similar scenes of villages in photos from the 60s and 70s were to the village I lived in and to most of the villages I saw when I was there. The same mud and stick houses, pit latrines, chickens in the yard, etc.

Forty years of not only Peace Corps, but uncounted millions in dollars, Yen, Euros, Pounds and Renmimbi have been poured into this country and except for the Gaborone area (The Capital city) not all that much has changed. This is a country that has had no wars, has natural resources (e.g. diamonds) and a booming tourist industry.

I was struck by that because in 1975 and '76 I was stationed in South Korea with the army. At that time the countryside was pretty similar to Botswana's. Rural, under-developed, mud and stick houses, old men carrying firewood stacked high on A-frame "backpacks." Seoul, the capital was pretty modern. But once you left that city it got "country" real quick. In 2003 I returned to find an extremely modern developed country. Nothing could be found of the "old" Korea I once knew. This was a country with no outstanding natural resources and sharing a border with North Korea and their two million man army poised for attack.

I just wonder what is the difference.

This isn't about Peace Corps or any of the dozens of other Aid programs and their effectiveness. I'm not against helping others in need. It is after all the Golden Rule. But after 40 years what's the point?

Spirituality and Mount Wudang

We are here studying TaiJi and Kungfu on one of the most sacred places in Taoism. Taoism is a major philosophy or religion if you will here in China, very closely akin to Buddhism. Both TaiJi and Taoism began right here on this mountain so it draws people from all over the world. Seekers.

I suppose you might say we came here as seekers as well. For me it was just to get into great shape and experience 21st century China for a bit. But our school gets people often who seem to be seeking some kind of ethereal, quasi-religious, transformative experience. Kind of a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," floating through the bamboo trees kind of thing.

Of course there is no such thing. Even here on this holy mountain physics rules. No one floats. People get insight, sure, but that can happen anywhere.

Life for us here is very physical. We get up in the morning, train for two and a half hours, rest for lunch, train again another two and a half in the afternoon. It's hard. I've dropped 13 pounds. Gained flexibility. Gotten stronger. But it never lets up. Day after day it's the same program. Winter, 19 degrees Fahrenheit? Outside in the snow kicking. Summer, 85F? Kicking. Rain? Kicking. It never ends (Except Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays).

Still no out-of-body experience.

And yet it's a transformative place. We have looked into our lives and found deeper meaning to who and what we are. But it occurred to me this morning this is not my first time for such a similar experience.

Military veterans of every branch of service from any country in the world will relate their basic training to this experience. I went through Ranger training almost 40 years ago. Yet I carry the lessons learned there with me every day. Now NO ONE in their right minds would try to sell the military as an "ethereal, quasi-religious, transformative experience."

But brother let me tell you, it is as life changing and meaningful as anything one can ever experience.

And I think that's what we have here on Wudang Mountain.

I do like to watch the bamboo swaying in the wind though. From the ground...

On Michel de Montaigne

I've been reading some of his essays. Montaigne has been called the world's first blogger. He lived in France in the 16th century. But if you read him you'd swear he wrote yesterday, and specifically to you.

So the dude has inspired me. I've said before I was going to blog more. But I haven't. This time it'll be different. Every stupid, insipid, insulting, asinine thought that pops into my head is going up.

Let the insanity begin...