Truly Powerful People (452)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In mid-form today, Saul-the-Chi-Lantern swirled from the practice and into a tale. We were midway through class and midway through the form and apparently being on the midway inspired a story in him that reminded me of old masters and why our ideas of learning are so far off the rails.

His tale was of a certain school of thought in Tai Chi in which a newcomer will practice the form for 2 years before being allowed to do exercises with another person (he called them circle exercises). After practicing circle exercises for 13 years a student might advance to the status of beginner and be allowed to actually touch another person in the practice; to work with the energy of another. 15 years of continual practice to consider yourself a beginner. That’s akin to a college senior saying, “Now, I am ready to begin.” Imagine a diploma, not as a completion, a marker for arrival, but as an acknowledgment of readiness to begin.

When I was young the only thing I wanted to do was paint. I used to dream about being shipped off the to the master, to learn by apprenticeship. I’d sleep under the bench, I’d spend the first few years learning to clean the brushes and mix the paint and watch. I might, at age 9 be allowed to hold a brush, to do exercises on used canvas. I might at 12 be allowed to gesso the canvas, to prepare the ground and glue and perhaps paint the under-layer. I’d be drawing all along and learning color and technique and perhaps at 15 I’d be allowed to paint the sky or the clouds in the master’s paintings. And, if I started at 7 years old I might, by the time I was 25, be accepted into the guild. I might be ready to begin. And if I continued to grow, to paint everyday, when I was 50 I could take students of my own. This was my little kid ideal. Learning by doing has always made more sense to me than incarceration in a desk and abstractions. I’ve always understood mastery was so much more interesting and rewarding than arrival.

At the end of his tale Saul-the-Chi-Lantern stepped back into the form as if he’d never left it. He is a master. He was a beginner 40 years ago after 15 years of practice. He is poetry and power and humor and lighthearted. At 70 he could throw me across a room using my own aggression. He assumes nothing. He reminds me each week what a human being can be when they give up the idea that the wealth is in the acquisition; Saul knows the wealth is in having a story to tell.

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