5 Profound Pieces of Kung Fu Panda Wisdom (That May Seem Dumb)

5.) Po’s Wu Wei: In his fight against Tai Lung at the end of the first film, Po takes a hard hit from his Snow Leopard nemesis, and through ripples of undulating flab returns a devastating strike that sends Tai Lung flying. While I wouldn’t recommend one try it at home as demonstrated in animated form, the idea of not resisting, but rather redirecting forces is an old school approach. It also reflects the ancient Taoist wisdom of wu wei, effortless action.

 

4.) “But I realized having you in Po’s life doesn’t mean less for me. It means more for Po.”  In the third movie, there’s a scene in which Mr. Ping (Po’s avian dad by adoption) explains to Po’s panda dad, Li, how he came to grips with Li’s presence (which at first made Mr. Ping insecure and envious.) The lesson is to be careful in assigning a situation zero-sum status (one person’s gain requires another’s loss) without having reason to believe it reflects the reality of the situation.

 

3.) “There is just news. There is no good or bad.” This bit reflects an old Taoist story about a farmer and his neighbor. One day the neighbor sees the farmer has a beautiful new horse. The farmer tells the neighbor that it’s a wild horse that the farmer found at the back of his property. The neighbor says, “That’s good news.” The farmer says, “Good news? Bad news? Who’s to say?” The next day when the neighbor stops by the farmer tells him how his son got a broken arm trying to break in the wild horse. “That’s bad news,” says the neighbor. “Good news? Bad news? Who’s to say?” The next day the army comes by, conscripting young men, but the farmer’s son is not forced to go to war because the young man has a broken arm. The story goes on like that.

 

2.) “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are.” In the third movie, after Master Shifu explains to Po how he knew that Po would fail on his first day as a teacher, the Master utters this bit of wisdom. It’s a warning to avoid loitering in one’s comfort zone.

 

1.) “The secret ingredient of my secret ingredient soup….  The secret ingredient is … nothing… To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.”: For some reason, people love to get attached to trappings and secret wisdom, even to the point of losing sight of what’s important.

It reminds me of a story about Dr. Herbert Benson. Benson famously wrote a book entitled, “The Relaxation Response about the effects of relaxation on health. Back in the sixties, students of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (famously, the Beatles’ guru) asked Benson to do a study of the health effects of their teacher’s system of meditation. The Maharishi taught transcendental meditation, an approach in which students focused on mentally repeating a mantra that is “given” to them personally by the teacher. (I put the word “given” in quotes because the Maharishi actually charged a significant amount of money for these mantras.) Anyhow, after much badgering, Benson agreed to do the study. One has to realize that, while today such a study would be considered quite respectable, in those days a study of the effect of meditation on health would have been akin to a study of voodoo.

So, Benson conducted the study and — lo and behold — he found that patients who practice meditation do have better recoveries and less ill effects. The Maharishi and his people now love Herbert Benson. They sing his praises. But Benson is interested in science and couldn’t care less whether any particular guru’s system of meditation is validated. So he repeats the study with all participants using the word “one” as their mantra, and he gets the same result. Subsequently, other forms of meditation are studied, and with similar outcomes. Needless to say, the transcendentalists love affair with Dr. Benson was short-lived.

10 Great Quotes from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran

10.) “But let there be spaces in your togetherness.

“And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

-on Marriage

 

9.) “He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.”

-on Religion

 

8.) “And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.”
-on Pain

 

7.) “What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things?

“What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin and calls all others naked and shameless?”

-on Laws

 

6.) “If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”

-on Teaching

 

5.) “For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive.”

-on Prayer

 

4.) “And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.”

-on Freedom

 

3.) “For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?”

-on Giving

 

2.) “Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in the twilight between the night of his pygmy self and the day of his god self.”

-on Crime and Punishment

 

1.) “Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.”

-on Houses

5 Insightful Sentences from Literature


It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane. 

Philip K. Dick in VALIS

 

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

John Steinbeck in East of Eden

 

Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.

Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms

 

There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences.

Wallace Stegner in All the Little Live Things

 

There are some things that are so unforgivable they make other things easily forgivable. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Half a Yellow Sun

Aaaannd Buddha’d

“This is going on your permanent record, young man!”

“All is impermanent.”


“I want you to get up there and clean your room.”

“Desire is the root of all suffering.”


“There’s a big spider in the corner, kill it!”

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts.”


“My left sock has static cling.”

“You only lose what you cling to.”


“HELP! My sleeve got caught in this threshing machine.”

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and…[cringes]”


“I wonder where the Professor is, he’s usually not late.”

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”


“I’m feeling like a jelly doughnut.”

“What we feel, we attract.”


“I’m thinking a jelly doughnut would be good, too.”

“What we think, we become.”


“I’m furious with you.”

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”


“Well, speak up. Explain yourself!”

“He who doesn’t understand one’s silence will probably not understand one’s words.”


“HELP! My sleeve got caught in this threshing machine.”

“Be patient. Everything comes to you in the… [cringes]”


“It’s time to take the trash out.”

“If anything is worth doing, do it with all YOUR heart.”


“No. I’m sorry, I can’t go to your Solar eclipse gala bash. I have to take my grandmother to chemotherapy.”

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Wit and Wisdom of Master Yoda by Yoda

The Wit and Wisdom of Master Yoda: Master Yoda QuotesThe Wit and Wisdom of Master Yoda: Master Yoda Quotes by Yoda

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

[I normally put a link here to the books I review, but wouldn’t want anyone to accidentally buy this one by mistake.]

This review is the same rant I put in my weekly reading review today. If you saw it there, don’t bother reading onward.

This book was a stinker, and I can’t recommend it for anyone–though its saving grace is that it’s slim and thus only wastes a tiny bit of one’s time. What the author apparently did was to watch a Star Wars movie marathon and pull every Yoda line out and collect them together. This is a sad effort in two ways. First, while Yoda isn’t a lead in the movies (and, therefore, has a limited number of lines), there’s a vast canon of Star Wars books, and it doesn’t look like the author trolled any of them for quotes. Second, some of the lines are neither witty nor wise. Occasionally, Yoda has a line equivalent to, “take a left at the second light,” and the author includes such banal quotes. Furthermore, some of the quotes appear a second time in either reduced or extended form. Beyond all these complaints, the author doesn’t even take the time to put together meaningful front matter to tell the reader something interesting that they don’t already know, and thus doesn’t establish his worth in producing such a book. (Also, he doesn’t seem to know accepted protocol for writing quotes inside quotes–i.e. use of single quotes. Which I guess means he probably didn’t just cut and paste all the quotes because then they would have been grammatically correct.) He also could have at least provided told us which movie each quote was from. It’s a lazy effort. It succeeds spectacularly in being lazy. If you’ve seen the movies (or have basic cable so that you can readily do so by way of one of the frequent Star Wars marathons) you’ll gain nothing from this book.

View all my reviews

TODAY’S RANDOM THOUGHT: Be the Change

IMG_1501Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

That’s powerful phrasing. It’s much more effective than, say: “Nag your friends until they’re the change you desire.” It’s also far more potent than: “Write your legislator to draft a new bill so that we all have to be the change you wish to see.”

It’s powerful because it acknowledges that–whatever else you do–you have to set a good example by doing what you think is right. Even if that”s painful and lonely. It’s powerful because it’s bold.

That’s why it sticks in the mind. I once read an entire book by a well-known billionaire who made his fortune in foreign currency arbitrage. I was underwhelmed by the book and the character of the author, and don’t even remember the title because I remember thinking the title should have been: “Why It Should Be Illegal to do What I Did.” This individual came to believe it was morally repugnant to upset the economies of entire nations to make a quick buck, but the lure of making that buck was too great for him to stop without the threat that someone would put him in jail for it. In other words, instead of living by the motto of “be the change,” he lived  by the motto of “If I don’t do it, someone else will.”

BOOK CHAT: Walking by H.D. Thoreau

WalkingWalking by Henry David Thoreau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Thoreau paints a portrait of walking in such grandiose terms that one will cease to think of putting one foot in front of the other as one of life’s mundane tasks. He’s not talking about just any walking, however. He’s not talking about the mall walkers who briskly exercise in temples of consumerism. He’s not talking about those who walk through the park with top 40 hits blaring from their iPod ear buds.

Thoreau is talking about those individuals he calls saunterers. To saunter, as to stroll, is to walk in a leisurely and aimless fashion. Thoreau’s walking is that which:
-takes place in nature.
-leaves worldly worries behind.
-is not a trivial time commitment.
-is more an exercise of the mind and spirit than of the body.

To the mall walker, Thoreau would point out the error of a missed opportunity to get away from mankind’s chaos and enjoy nature. As he puts it, “The most alive is the wildest.” and “…all good things are wild and free.” He’s also clear in that walking for exercise misses the point by injecting hurriedness into a time that should be about slowing down.

On those with iPods, cellphones, or other contrivances that distract one from the environs, Thoreau is equally clear, “What business have I in the woods if I am thinking of something outside the woods?”

Thoreau’s essay broadens as it progresses. From a commentary on the virtues of sauntering, the essay turns to the glories of nature, the character of America, and the state of thought in his contemporary society. These may seem like unrelated concepts, but there is a string of logic that connects them.

The connection to nature and the virtue of wildness should be clear. It’s nature that is the optimal backdrop of sauntering. It’s in nature that one can be set free from the troubles of the world of man and obtain a glimpse of god. It’s in nature where creativity breeds with chaos turned down and native brilliance turned up.

Thoreau’s discussion of America is tied to the theme of walking in a couple of ways. The first is as a land made for walkers. For example, he points out that a man could pitch a tent almost anywhere in North America without great risk of becoming a meal. The same couldn’t be said of India or Africa or Siberia, where man isn’t the sole predatory creature. The second is America as a place with room to venture out into uncharted territory. Thoreau points out that we may look to the East for the lessons of our predecessors, but a person should look West for opportunities to grow in one’s own right. Of course, Thoreau’s America was different from today’s America.

The end of the essay broadens out even further. Thoreau comments upon mankind and the state of ideas and thought. He echoes Socrates when he talks about that age-old question of whether it’s better to be ignorant (to know one knows little) or deluded (to think one knows a lot, but be drowning in false knowledge.) A reader may suggest that this is a false dichotomy. Why can’t one know most everything and not have a one’s body of knowledge rife with false knowledge? I can’t say, but all of the evidence suggests that if such a state exists, it’s the domain of God or gods (if such entities exist.)

Thoreau also bemoans what he sees as the decline of thinking man. What does this have to do with walking? I think Thoreau answers in the following quote:
“So it would seem few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the grove in our minds is laid waste—sold to feed unnecessary fires of ambition, or sent to mill—and there is scarcely a twig left for them to perch on.”

I think that everyone should read this thin book–really an essay and not a full-scale book. The problems Thoreau notes have only gotten worse in our modern age. Far too few take the time to walk, and to acquire the benefits of sauntering.

View all my reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World TravelVagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vagabonding is a book about how to make the leap from a cubicle-dwelling company-man (or woman) to a wandering free-spirit.

This book serves two functions. The first is to answer questions about how one goes about seeing the world if one is not independently wealthy or a recent lotto winner. In this role it provides information such as how one can fund one’s travel time, and, perhaps more importantly, how one can get a job after one has an 18 month void in one’s resume.

The second function is to psyche one up to take the leap. In this role it is more persuasive than informative. In both roles it succeeds, but it is in this second role that it is most useful. The Introduction title is “How to Win and Influence Yourself” and Chapter 1 is entitled “Declare your Independence.”

Each chapter has a list of tips and/or references, quotes from those who have done it, and a profile of a famous person associated with the lifestyle, including: Thoreau, Whitman, Muir, and Annie Dillard. The quotes show you that mere mortals have made this leap. The profiles show that you that you will be in excellent company if you do it.

One of the most important themes in this book is simplified living. If one isn’t independently wealthy, one will have to make “sacrifices” to adopt this lifestyle. However, if one learns to live lean, one will be able to make do with much less. One must also live lean during one’s travels. Potts’s advice is to travel light, and leave the electronics at home. (The latter may seem impossible these days, but as a person who recently lost a laptop in a travel accident, I respect the logic.)

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is ready to take the leap, but only if you’re serious.

View all my reviews

10 of My Favorite Quotes on Writing

Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. –Kurt Vonnegut

 

Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for. –Mark Twain

 

The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.  –Ray Bradbury

 

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. –Elmore Leonard

 

The first draft of anything is shit.—Ernest Hemingway.

 

Omit needless words. –William Strunk

 

The only rule for writing I have is to leave it while I’m still hot… –William Faulkner

 

Whoever wants to tell a story of a sainted grandmother, unless you can find some old love letters, and get a new grandfather?  –Robert Penn Warren

 

When you write the thing through once, you find out what the end is. Then you can go back to the first chapter and put in a lot of those foreshadowings. –Flannery O’Connor

 

As far as I’m concerned the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.  –Neil Gaiman

Wisdom in 5 Simple Lessons

Confucius statue at the Confucian Temple, Beijing

Confucius statue at the Confucian Temple, Beijing

1.) Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle –Plato

2.) If you choose, you are free; if you choose, you need blame no man.  –Epictetus

3.) …the greatest carver does the least cutting.  –Lao Tzu

4.) If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.  –Martin Luther King Jr

5.) A gentleman wishes to be slow to speak and quick to do.  –Confucius