Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's ALL small stuff

Around 1990 I was working at a Tae Kwon Do school in NJ. I'd just left the ulcer inducing fast track of the corporate world and my teacher offered me a gig. I'd warm up classes, teach a few, sell memberships, sweep the floor and do whatever it took to help Master Kwak keep two schools running. Master Kwak exemplified what I though a martial artist should represent. He was calm, reflective.........meditative breathing exercises were part of every class........and extremely skilled in his art. He would only demonstrate his skills during student tests but some of his techniques and breaks were amazing. He had a dry sense of humor, appreciated mine and was a good friend during the time I trained and worked with him. I broke my hand on my black belt test and I remember when I walked into his school with a cast on my arm he looked like he was gonna cry....then laugh...then cry.......ah.........the ultimate yin and yang.

A few weeks later I was preparing to move out of the area and leave the school. I was nervous but excited and Master Kwak and I had a sitdown. He was always good for some words of wisdom. For some reason life keeps reminding me of this conversation. My mom has just died after a long illness. We'd sold her home and I was leaving with no prospects except my band gig...which was doing pretty well at the time. Master Kwak sensed my apprehension and showed me something he'd drawn on a piece of paper he had in front of him. I'd seen it around his office but never thought to ask what it was. It was the Korean character for crisis. He told me the word is made up of two meaning danger....and the other meaning opportunity. Ahhhhhh.....grasshopper. I can't escape it because that reference never fails to appear at the exact moment of crisis/danger/opportunity etc. Harrowing, or at least, uncertain times, upon reflection, usually turn out to be worth the trip. I've had a few life challenges, just like you, and at this point I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. If everything didn't happen as it did I wouldn't be And this is right where I want to be. There's still things to do......hopes....dreams.......become a better brother, uncle, friend....partner. And that's what keeps life exciting. The old what the hell is gonna happen tomorrow thing!?!?

I dig getting older. Is that weird? I see things so much more clearly than when I was twenty or thirty. One of the biggest lessons is don't sweat the small stuff, because ultimately it's all small stuff. I can't take credit for that but it's my mantra. Another bit of wisdom I try to live by is the Serenity Prayer. I'm certainly not a religious guy in the traditional sense and not much for traditional prayer but I carry a lot of spirituality around and this one hits home. Google it. How did I become acquainted with it?
The nuns in my grammar school would hit the parents up for the occasional ride to Convent Station, NJ. This was kind of like the mother ship for the Sisters of Charity. My mom got the call one day and I was recruited for the drive along. Turns was my teacher!!!!! I guess I've been more uncomfortable but I can't remember when. As a thank you she gave my mother a small plaque which had the Serenity Prayer on it. My mom seemed very moved and told her that the prayer had always been one of her favorites. I thought she was just shinin' her but apparently she meant it. That prayer hung around the house for the next thirty years. I guess the vibe has passed on because like the sage words of Master Kwak, the Serenity Prayer always seems to pop up right when it's needed. I finally caved and put my own computer generated prayer together, framed it and it's in my music studio helping me to find the divine inspiration needed to write a top ten hit. That and Carole King's Tapestry album. Basically it tells you to be aware and ready when life comes at you. Recognize a good opportunity, etc. Good advice anytime. Clever one liners make life so simple, don't they? If we all lived by the bits of wisdom delivered by the Asian cartoon character in the NY Daily News.....usually right next to the racing would be beautiful. Every day he's got a gem. It's usually something about open your mouth less and your ears more. I'm stunned that the climate of political correctness in this country has allowed him to continue.
I really hate political correctness. It's just so righteously phony. I remember when Howard Stern was being interviewed by Tom Snyder and lambasted for all his politically incorrect, insensitive and usually right on the money comments. Howard's point was that everybody says or at least, thinks, this stuff. Tom said, "Yeah, but not when the mics are on." Hmmmmmm. I paraphrase..... but you get the point. Knock it off!!!!!! We can take it!!!!!!! Family Guy's my new favorite show. It doesn't apologize for anything and I love that. We're all the family guy to a point..We just don't have the nerve to admit it. Me included. I also love you tube and I'm on facebook. DON'T ask me to Twitter.
Well, a great thunderstorm/hailstorm just started so I have to get outside. First one of the season. And my electricity's bound to go out as it always does so I'd better save........
PS Gig this wknd Fri, Apr 3rd at Tiff's, Rt 31, Clinton NJ with The "High Bridge All Stars." Showtime around 9.

1 comment:

Colin said...

I do enjoy your columns, Ted. Much wisdom and laid-back perspective on this crazy world we live in. And, as I get older, I find myself aspiring to that sort of perspective as well.

I'm glad to hear you're finding the whole moving in thing less traumatic this go 'round. I look forward to catching up with you soon. I guess it won't be at a Steve memorial. Good luck with finding a steady musical gig.

Best wishes,