Running on rice paper…

I did not watch Kung Fu during its original run, but a decade after the final Cain adventure aired, I did see a few episodes in rerun on TV.  I only recall two things.  One was the recurring motif of the old master teaching a lesson of peace and understanding to young Cain (“Remember, grasshopper, the best solution is a peaceful solution”), and then, coming out of the flash-back, grown-up Cain kicking and beating the crap 0ut of some crackers in the Old West.  Seemed like mixed messages to me, even if those crackers were asking for it — maybe they dreamt of world peace and understanding between peoples while they were unconscious.  The other scene I remember struck me immediately and has stayed with me.  In every episode, the older Cain would flash back to his training; in one episode, this involved his walking on rice paper.  At first, young Cain tore that paper up as he walked along it like a little galoot.  Later, in successive flashbacks — is this how flashbacks work, by the way, where you recall the first, and the next, and the next?  my flashbacks seem to be more random — we see Cain get better control and, in the final flashback, before he beats up that episode’s crackers, he’s gliding over the rice paper with nary a wrinkle, and no holes at all.  When I saw that, I thought — that’s what I want to do.  As much fun as the violence seemed, it was the walking on rice paper that I really wanted to do.  The ability to do that was cool, and it involved a lot less wear and tear on me and others.  Of course, I never got any rice paper — I tried a few times with the Chicago Tribune (so sorry, Gene Siskel, for stepping on your face again and again) — no holes in the paper if I walked on the paper over hard wood;  a few mini-holes when I walked on it over shag.  I figured that I was probably doing it wrong — Cain was walking on rice paper, not newsprint, after all, and I was walking on a Chicago newspaper, and everything in Chicago is tough.  Even the klutzy little Cain could probably have walked over newspapers on a hardwood floor, and there were no shag carpets in those ancient Chinese temples (or in Hollywood replicas thereof).  As with most of my “oh, it’d be great…” reveries, I gave up my efforts in a day or two, but that image has stuck with me for decades. 

I often think about it as I move through life — “imagine you are walking on rice paper — keep your step light.”  I don’t often succeed, even in my imagination; I often lumber through life, more Hulk, less Astaire, but I find it pleasant, thinking, even for a moment that I do not sit, stand or walk heavy on this earth, but can move with grace and a certain lightness.  It is not a goal I’ll ever reach — though I take some consolation that Cain never reached his goal of true peace ( he got the rice paper part down, but still ended up beating the crap out of someone each episode) — but so far the aspiration to walk, or run, or dance on rice paper helps to keep me in better relation with the world — it sometimes keeps me from reacting without thought or empathy, and it keeps me hopeful about the world and my potential therein.  The other option is to give up on me (“I can’t do this, so why try?”) and to give up on others by either dismissing them or granting them too much power. 

A new day brings more rice paper if I but dare and dream.

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