February 05, 2009


Beware of blue.

I started out the week at Goat Rope by suggesting that people who want to make the world a better place could do worse than take up martial arts, especially the ones that involve some kind of serious sparring, as a hobby. There are plenty of lessons there.

All week, I've been remembering various episodes from my long and inglorious career in the martial arts. It's funny, but I have a much better memory of the fights I lost than the fights I won. For one thing, there were way more of the former than the latter. For another, when you're really in the zone, there's no self-awareness and you may not even remember what you did. When I've asked my daughter specific questions about how she won tournament fights, she didn't know how to answer.

But you always remember the ones that went really bad.

I think my worst thumping came about due to the universe's sense of humor and the fatal flaw of underestimating an opponent. Years back, I was coaching kids at a tournament and told the main instructor not to give me an entry card under any circumstances, no matter what I said or did. I hadn't trained seriously in ages.

But after a while I started looking at the talent. I kept thinking "I can take these people!" There was one guy there in a blue gi (karate uniform) who I really wanted to fight. I'm a traditionalist and there was something vaguely offensive about a blue gi. I took it as axiomatic that I could, by definition, beat anyone in a blue gi.

I asked for the entry card...

When the black belts lined up, I asked God to please give the Mr. Blue Gi. Alas for me, God was taking calls that day and I got what I asked for.

I don't think I've ever been kicked or hit harder by anything before or since. He plated a solid front kick so deep in my solar plexus that I felt like I was picking his toenails out of my back for the next week or so. I went down. Then he did it again with the same result.

Breathing isn't all that interesting until you can't do it. Then it becomes fascinating. I think Dylan said it best: the moral of this story/the moral of this song/is simply that one should never be where one does not belong.

Any struggle or campaign is unpredictable. One should never assume it's going to be a cakewalk. Even if it wears a blue gi.

Experiences like that have taught me a lesson in gratitude. I've known some activists who get angry or frustrated when they don't get everything they want or only make small progress towards a goal. I always want to ask such people the following question: haven't you ever gotten your ass totally kicked? I'm happy any time that doesn't happen.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. President Obama signed a bill expanding access to the Children's Health Insurance Program to around four million new children. The bill also covers legal immigrants and allows states to offer dental health care to some eligible children who don't receive their main insurance through CHIP. Some of us have been working for this for a long time.

RECOVERY NOW. Here's an analysis of the job impact in every state of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

NOT THE BEST WEEK for coal. On the flip side, several groups filed amicus briefs on behalf of Massey Energy in the pending US Supreme Court case.

AMERICAN HUNGER. Food insecurity affects 1 in 8 Americans, according to this item.

URGENT FOSSIL WHALE UPDATE. Early ones apparently hunted in the water but gave birth on land.




Don Wise said...

breathing isn't interesting until you can't . . .

i laughed aloud
and blessed the day i met you

love, light and peace

Don Wise said...

who is Mark?

this note with love is from
deborah in kc

El Cabrero said...

Hey Deborah,
Thanks for the note! Believe it or not, that whole episode was sort of funny at the time, in a non-breathing sort of way.