I am a Taoist. I had been raised by fire and brimstone, Old Testament fundamentalists who taught me from the age of awareness that I was a direct descendant of Satan who was irredeemable in the eyes of God, and the punishment awaiting me in the afterlife would surely warrant another book of the Bible to be properly documented. Rather unsurprisingly, Christianity never figured high on my list of things to get into. My first brush with The Way was thanks to the old Kung Fu series from the early 70s, with David Carradine. Most of the people my age or younger who were influenced by it tried to emulate Carradine's serenity with a studied undertone of implied violence; they desperately tried to be seen as dangerous.I had been studying martial arts for several years by then, and flatter myself that I was dangerous. I was bullied at school, beaten at home, and assured daily that God had far worse in store for me. I had a huge chip on my shoulder, and all my martial arts studies were based on a desire to not be bothered; in other words, if you looked at me funny, I'd rip your lungs out.
Then I met Kwai Chang Caine. Here was a martial artist whose skills were on a superhuman plane, everything I was aspiring to be, and more. Yet, with all this training, he harmed no living thing, he neither challenged nor offended anyone, he was humble. He swallowed every insult with only a quiet apology for his own shortcomings. He only fought as a last resort, and when he did, he only did enough harm to end the fight, and not one thing more.
I understood that this guy was a fictional character, the construction of screenwriters, but without conscious awareness, I realized that I needed what he had. Did such a thing really exist? I watched every show, listened to the dialogue like it was a college course, read up on Eastern religions. To my delight, I discovered that there was indeed such a thing, and its name was Taoism. I embraced it more firmly than any drowning man ever clutched at a straw.
Now, there is a dearth of Taoist temples here in the States. My knowledge comes from books, DVDs, documentaries, and any other source that wanders into my grasp. "Real" Taoists who have had the benefit of years in the temple with wise teachers to guide them might not claim me as one of their own. Nonetheless, there is plenty of material available. Much of it is imparted by parables, stories of the sort you would be told by a wise master, and I have read it thousands of times, and meditated for many long hours.
The result? For the past forty years, I have "been" Kwai Chang Caine. Oh, I can't fight like him, but as he would be the first to tell you, that isn't what's important. I improve what I can, accept what is beyond me, take care of my own affairs and leave you to yours, and as the Christians would say, peace has followed me all the days of my life. One of the teachings is, "The wise man does not quarrel, so no one quarrels with him." Or, as the Klingons like to say, "Never fight a battle that you don't have to win." I extend this philosophy to not quarreling with the things that life throws at you.
Case in point: Two weeks ago, I reported that my XBox 360 had taken its flight to that electronic scrapyard in the sky. Well, within the last three days, my old XBox and my PS2 have given up the ghost. I'm a man without a game system. I have played for hours almost every day since my children were small, and right now I feel like I went outside the Shuttle to repair a satellite, and when I looked back, the Shuttle was gone. I have that deer-in-the-headlights feeling right now, but, have I not, on these very pages, complained about not having time to do everything I want to do? Well, I've just gained three to ten hours every day that I used to piss away in front of the TV with a controller in my hand. Once I shake off this shock, the question will become one of what to do with this gift. Yes, I said gift, for gift it is in every way.
I have spoken of not having anything interesting to talk about. Now I'll have time to find that something. I can take whole days out (with Lady Bonnie!) to explore this beautiful county I live in, from ocean, to mountain, to desert. There are museums of everything here, from prehistoric man with his rock paintings to the fine art of modern impressionists; from scientists, to pioneers, to sports stars. There are eateries of every price range and ethnicity. There are panoramic views and intricate patterns on tiny leaves. Photo essays all. There are movies to view, TV to watch, books to read, and concerts to attend. So many new things to take on, and I wonder whether losing my gaming habit will free up a quarter of the time I need to pursue it all.
And then there's writing. I told you I had developed an interest in the steampunk genre. I told you I had a lot to learn about it. I told you I wanted to write some stories in that broad, sweeping style. Every time the research began to demand too much of me, I would say I was going to take a break for an hour, and go to play a game. Eight hours later, I would turn off the game and turn in. No more of that. I mentioned that Chops and I were going to collaborate on a steampunk saga to span two generations. I collected some material and passed it along, and never received a response. I then threatened to write my own stories. Well, that may never happen, but the point is, there will be time for all this stuff now, and all this stuff will naturally lead to a wide range of interesting things to post for your enjoyment, and ultimately mine, as my payoff from all this is the conversation that comes afterward; I love talking with you guys, and have been worried about not having anything to talk about.
And all this comes about because the Laughing Gods of Fortune got together and decided to screw me. Well, was it good for you, hunny? As I always tried to instill in my children, the most important ability is that of being able to thrive in the chaos, turn on a dime, and make the surprises work for you. I can't change the fact that these game machines all decided to stop working, so the next question is whether there is a way I can benefit from the fact that they did. Well, it turns out that, not only can I benefit, but my wife can, and so can everyone who enjoys reading my work here, and hopes that I'm not going away. Good news: I'm not.
All these benefits may not be apparent by tomorrow, or maybe even next week, but they're all coming, and they should amount to a long and happy run for the Hideout and its fans. My suggestion now is that everyone get ready to do some reading, and while you're waiting, look for ways to take advantage of things in your own lives that look bad on the surface, but may have opened other doors for you. And be sure to do what I do from now on:
Get out there and live life like you mean it!
Maybe I'll see you out there...