I am a huge fan of Chinese wuxia (fantastical ‘kung fu’ fiction) and Japanese samurai-romance. There’s just something about those genres that has always pulled me in. Something about the history and culture of East Asia that calls to my heart.
Or maybe it’s just the pure badassery of watching a hero using nothing but their fists (or sword) to take down whatever evil is washing through the world.
My favorite tales are the ones in which some rough nobody journeys to a remote mountain temple and learns from a grumpy, old sensei. This process almost always results in the hero becoming a refined weapon of mass destruction. A nugget of coal turned into a diamond.
We see this in real life all the time. When we run into dramatic problems, we ask the guidance of people that have “been there”. When we want skill-knowledge, we seek out teachers in the field.
We all look for a sensei eventually. All of us want to know the secret technique. All of us want to be the example.
Unlike those fantastic tales, though, our real life senseis are not perfect people. They can’t foresee every misstep we’ll make, or buffer us every time we second guess ourselves. Here in the real world, our teachers are just regular people like us, with their own flaws and biases.
We have this tendency to assume that a person who’s mastered one thing must have mastered everything else. But, that’s just not how it works. Tenured professors can be alcoholics and decorated therapists can have drug problems. Grandmas can be racists. (Not you, Nana. I love you.)
We elevate successful people and assume that all of their traits—even the bad ones—contributed to their success. That might be true, honestly. But their traits only contribute to their success. Life is an individual thing.
When we seek guidance, it is important to know what we want. This allows us to frame our experience. It allows us to keep ourselves moving in the right direction. The hero doesn’t go to the mountain temple to become the master. He wants to learn how to kick ass, because he has a problem he needs to solve with ass-kicking.
It is very true that we all need senseis. In order to have the life we want, we must learn the necessary lessons. We must seek out the proper guidance. But we shouldn’t confuse our guidance for the only answer. And we shouldn’t assume that our sensei knows everything.
Note: This post was inspired by @escapejudgement on Tumblr. Thank you for the topic recommendation!
Ronin is a masterless wanderer, and he’s seen way too much kung fu. He writes about his journeys and his observations. Follow him on Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook for content every day. Follow him on Youtube for video content every Friday.
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