Monday, March 20, 2006

keep the fellowship to yourself

When my parents told me I could stay with them, one of the conditions they made was that I had to attend church with them "at least" once a week. This is a little tricky, seeing as how I have tai chi class on Wednesdays and Sundays. But I can make the Sunday evening service. I figure it's a small price to pay for nearly-free room and board, and a minimum of questions about where I go and whom I see.

I've been to two services now. Mom and Dad are getting a kick out of introducing me to their friends. It's kind of a novelty, knowing my parents now have friends, and like me they tend to collect people of many different ages. They're all very nice people, generally smart and interesting, but of course they all live in a world far removed from mine. When I'm in that church I feel rather like an anthropologist among a primitive tribe, or one of those Victorian ladies touring the asylum. None of it seems real, with all the laughing and hugging and gushing and praise-Jesus-ing. I guess they would feel just as disconnected if they were to attend one of my tai chi classes or a party. At least I can manage to be amused at it. They would be appalled.

It's all in the word choice, you see. At the church it's "Praise God," or "it's His will." In class it's "must be your karma," or "you've got bad chi." Of course I roll my eyes, as well, when Heather or Mike start harping on energy and chi and holistic healing. It's just kind of amusing, to me, to hear how these two groups keep groping after the same metaphors, the same explanations for the inexplicable, and yet would be so totally hostile to each other just because of the vocabulary.

Of course I'm as ecumenical as they come, but I suspect even I will have to draw a line in the sand, eventually. Mom likes to make little digs at Buddhism and feng shui and the Chinese belief structure, as if she has the slightest knowledge about any of it. I don't embrace any of it, but I respect it, and I respect my teacher (who's about as much a Buddhist as I am a Christian), and I really can't stand hearing people pontificate on things they don't understand. Or those who think it's okay to embrace racist models just because it's done in Christian love.

Last night this old lady was delivering the sermon. She's a decent speaker, often funny, but her points are too broad and dependent upon shaky warrants to really hold my attention. At one point she was talking about performing God's will instead of just paying lip-service, and she illustrated with a joke about a Chinese convert. This convert, when asked how he kept spreading the word in the face of opposition, replied, "First I get on my knees and talkee, talkee, talkee. And then I get up and walkee, walkee, walkee."

"Amen!" said the church, while I sat there feeling dirty and furious. I have NEVER heard Sit say "talkee" or "washee" or any of the other cliches attributed to pidgen Chinese-English. He doesn't even drop his articles. Yes, his pronunciation can be strange at times, and I sometimes misunderstand him because of the way he strings verbs together; Chinese verb structure is different and simpler than in English. But he certainly doesn't speak pidgin.

I never was exposed much to stereotypes or racism as a child. If my parents had any prejudices they hid them well. If anything they've gotten more closed-minded since they've been in that church, but I guess that'll happen to anyone who adopts an exclusionary attitude toward the world.

One other thing I've got to tell about last night. This was only my second trip and I've already got a stalker. I'd guess he's a bit younger than me, clearly the product of inbreeding. Thin red hair, rough florid complexion, bad teeth, slightly retarded, at least socially. He kept trying to make conversation, and touched me a couple of times, to get my attention when I was talking with other people.

On the drive home I told mom and dad to keep him away from me. They said, "Yeah, sorry, we figured he'd come sniffing around--just be sure you keep wearing your ring." But I know from experience that that type is not bright enough to take hints. If he lays a hand on me again I may very well hurt him--I can do a joint lock without anyone noticing, and I may just for the fun of it--just a smidgeon of karmic payback for my having to be there. I don't suffer fools or fanboys the way I used to.

Friday, March 17, 2006

on the road again

My daily commute has only gotten longer with my new living arrangements, but for the moment it's enough of a novelty that I'm still enjoying it. I get an interesting tour of the city every day: from farmland to the industrial districts, into the commercial zones, circumnavigate downtown and the spaghetti strainers on top of Bartle Hall, through another commercial zone and over a trainyard, into the suburbs, and finally to the fringes of the posh business district of Overland Park. Dad said I must feel like that guy in the commerical, who has to parachute off his front yard to get to his car at the bottom of the mountain. Yeah, something like that. Only base jumping would be faster and slightly less dangerous.

The first leg of my commute takes me along a lengthy rural two-lane highway, past a couple of major trucking distribution centers. So there are semis coming and going constantly; on high-wind days it can be a real adventure. Yesterday as I was driving in, a truck roared past me and somehow flung a decent-sized rock at my windshield. I saw it coming but couldn't do anything except duck. It glanced off and made a spiderweb crack the size of a quarter on the passenger side. Grr. So that's one more thing I'll have to get repaired. Let's hope it doesn't spread.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

this sounds hearty

I get an email promotional newsletter thingy from Bob's Red Mill, which sells all manner of grains and baking products. In today's edition I found the following:

Slow-Cooked Steel Cut Oats
1 cup Steel Cut Oats
4 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped apple
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Grease the inside of a 3 ½ to 4 quart slow cooker. Throw all ingredients inside slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours. Stir before serving. Great served with milk.

Sounds good. I like oatmeal, anyway.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

heavy

Tai chi class was simply awesome last night. I'm kickin' butt and taking names. I've upped my working-application average to about 50%, which means I do it right about half the time. Granted, that's with a willing partner and at fairly low speed, but that's okay. Doing it right means you're not thinking about it, which means it's becoming automatic. From here it's a matter of building speed and accuracy. Sit is so pleased with me; he keeps taking me aside and showing me refinements, new ways to do it better. He's not saying "good enough," anymore, he's saying, "Yes, now add this."

I also experienced a curious tingling in my fingertips last night, especially while we were doing the block-and-slap "single whip" move. You're supposed to be very limp-armed during that slap, just crack your elbow and wrist forward like a whip. Stings like fire to get hit like that--it can leave welts. And for the first time I could feel the blood slinging into my fingertips when I swung. That's a very good sign; it means your chi is flowing freely. It adds a tremendous amount of power without relying on muscle tension, kind of like the impact of the water in a balloon. Today my fingers are still unusually red. Susan even noticed it. She gripped my hand and was amazed at how hot my fingers are.

Best of all, last night was just fun. There's some other heavy-duty stuff going on in my life right now, and I've been worn out with worry and stress and just plain being unsettled. I hate having my schedule disrupted; my husband teases me about being a creature of habit, but it's a simple fact--if you stick to a familiar routine, it frees up your mind for other stuff, creative and fun stuff.

So no matter what, I attend tai chi twice a week. If nothing else it's good exercise. And when it's good, it's transcendent. Last night there was a point when I looked around and realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was meant to be doing. It was a moment of pure peace with the universe.

=======

"Don't worry," Sifu says,
"It turn out to be a good thing.
Maybe be real good."

Whirling storm calms
beneath the gong of a hand.
I sleep in the arms of hope.

They are loving and supportive;
they gave me the key.
But oh God, the books!