Do Your Thang

Kung Fu Fighting, part 2: In Chinese, kung fu literally means “work intensity,” and can also be used in contexts completely unrelated to martial arts.  Instead it refers to any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long effort and hard work.

*i don’t have a snappy picture to illustrate this concept.  how about a quasi-related video instead:
The point that Sing (Stephen Chow in Shaolin Soccer) is trying to make here is that kung-fu is not something confined to martial arts.  This idea is also brought out in Mystery of Chess Boxing, the film i mentioned in Part 1, in one of the best scenes in the film where the hero is challenged by his school’s cook.
The more appropriate term for what we consider “kung-fu” is actually wushu, which encompasses the universe of Chinese martial arts.  In reality, one could say that someone has good kung-fu in any discipline, from cooking, to calligraphy, to calculating investment returns.
This idea of elevating any task to a discipline or art form is something that has intrigued me for a long time.  Back when i used to be a barista, probably the most rewarding job i’ve had if i’m honest, we tried very hard to maintain this ideology at the cafe.  Everything we did: grinding beans, pulling shots of espresso, even mopping the floor, we tried to make into a sort of kata, or routine.  The practical application worked very well.  Business boomed, our patrons truly enjoyed visiting our place, and the employees felt accomplished because we’d elevated our jobs into something more than meaningless labor or busy work.  It was fun.
This kind of ties into my nocturnal ramblings from last night actually.  Probably the main reason we were able to do things like that was because our cafe was autonomous.  It was owned by a laid back guy named Mark, a middle-aged former…something business-y that left all that to open a neighborhood cafe because he just really liked coffee and the kind of atmosphere they represented in the early 90’s.  Profits were up and everyone was having a good time, so he didn’t much care that the people who ran the place were flinging cups across the room, climbing the walls, and doing calisthenics while the coffee was brewing.
Someone told me the other day that they’ve enjoyed my blog so far, but they asked me “what’s it mainly about?”  My first reaction was kind of defensive.  “What do you mean ‘what’s it about?’  It’s about whatever i want it to be about,” was my response.  But they did have a point.  i took a look at what i’ve done so far, and there’s not really a strong common thread running through the thing.  This made me upset with myself.  i ought to know better than to expect any kind of following without identifying what it is anyone is supposed to follow in the first place.
It wasn’t until this morning that it more or less came together for me.
It’s about individuals doing their own thing.
i suppose when i began, i was more focused on myself: trying to paint a wide picture of myself and doing it in real time while anyone could watch it unfold.  But it very quickly started to look at things other people did that fascinated me.
Sky-diving from orbit, rediscovering life after addiction, the bridge between science-fiction and science fact, creating avenues for others to escape, performing music about something you love…these are all things that other people did of their own accord.  Things that fascinate, inspire, and engage other people.  Things that they accomplish with enormous effort, requiring them to develop skills to the level of art.  And through that “work intensity,” they’ve achieved something that i brought up early this morning: autonomy.
According the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, autonomy is pretty close to the top of the pyramid.  In other words, not something of absolute necessity like breathing, food, water, sex, sleep…basic physiological needs.  It falls under “Esteem,” which is our need for confidence, achievement, and respect.
There’s of course more than one way to fulfill those needs, but in my opinion autonomy is the strongest way.  At least for me it is.  That’s probably a good indication of why those individuals i look at as role models are those whose accomplishments are more or less a result of their own focus and propensity for self-governing.  That being said, an argument could be made that folks like Gary Gygax, Stan Lee, Felix Baumgartner, Carl Douglas, and so forth didn’t do everything all on their own – they had help of course.  But it was primarily their vision that drove whatever institutions aided them.
To that end, you’re going to see a refocus of The Long Shot.  Frankly, i haven’t done much that’s all that interesting to talk about.  At least not in quite a while.  That guy who a friend described as “taking chances on things” maybe got a little jaded when the odds didn’t work in his favor very often.  He’s still around, waiting in the train station for announcement of a new departure destination.  In the meantime, he’ll enjoy watching the redesign of the station and trains.
Instead, what you’ll find here going forward is stories about what chances other people are taking or took, and i’ll let them explain it.  So you’ll be getting a double bang for your virtual buck: you won’t have to plod through my rambling about random topics, and you’ll get some first hand exposure to some stuff maybe you never heard of before.  And i’ll still get my kicks because it’s still my little corner of the Internet and i get to write about them however i want.
Hooray for autonomy.
p.s. If you are one of the 4 Russians, 1 German, or 1 Canadian person who visit here every time i post something new, please write to me.  i’d like to find out who you are.
p.p.s. Anyone can write to me.  In fact, i hope to hear from anyone who is doing their own thing whether they’re on the other side of the globe or the other side of the street.  i just find it fascinating that those particular folks seem to visit with great regularity.

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