Monday, March 12, 2007

Ed is coming to visit

While we were still at the park practicing, Mike announced we were going to have a visitor. His name was Ed and he was a friend and fellow student of Mike's. Mike and Ed were both students of the same Tai Chi instructor which was where they had first met.

Mike was always reticent about himself and naturally, as an asian and a kung fu man, not so emotional about things. Still, I felt he attached some importance to the coming visit. He was excited or anxious.

Mike talked to us about the visit and how we wanted to present an image. Something we could all be proud of. Left unsaid was that we should act like something that Mike could be proud of.

I think that attitude would be one that most any person who was the leader of a group would have. Wanting an outsider to think that the group had benefited from his leadership. Thinking the group actually showed the results of working with Mike.

The group at this time would have been Lonnie, Jeff, George, Me, Steve and Daniel I am fairly certain was there.I don't think Tom had joined yet at this point. The group was still a young appearing kung fu oriented group.

The fateful saturday arrived and Ed showed up. Talk about contrasts! Mike is a thin man who has the bony kind of kung fu look. Ed was one of those kung fu men that blow up like a balloon. He wasn't that big in the sense of being tall and muscular but he was about 2 or 3 feet around. And his initial impression on me anyways was that he was 2 or 3 feet around from his ankles to his head.

At the time I did not understand Tai Chi well enough to know what I was seeing. Honestly I did not have much respect for him based on appearance. I knew that he could throw people around because of sheer mass, but I don't know if I thought he was good at Tai Chi.

We all introduced ourselves, then sat down for our regular meeting with Ed watching as an observer. Memories of situations like this are still emotional after all of these years.

I was embarrassed. Mike was so controlling that no one talked much as I have stated before. Mike was OK with people talking until they challenged him. Then they better shut up fast. After awhile, with an attitude and consequences like that, people became trained to stay quiet.

The meeting was embarrassing because it seemed false and forced. I personally felt like we were trained animals putting on show for this guy. Not people who were being honest. The conversation felt forced and stilted. People really did not have much to say.

The meeting broke up and we began to do our practice. I cannot remember for sure, but Ed might have talked to people about Tai Chi. He might have given some pointers or we might have practiced the form more than the usual one time.

I kept my distance from Ed because I hate falsity. I did not want to go to him, strike up some false conversation, and say false things. I also did not want to be involved in a conversation with him where I might do or say something that would make Mike unhappy.

Eventually we called it a day. Everyone was glad they had met Ed and it was agreed that it had been a productive day. Plans were made to meet again the next day. This was a Saturday so the next day would have been a Sunday, the regularly scheduled day for classes.

Everyone smiled and shook hands and left thinking good thoughts.

The next day we all arrive for the meeting. Mike looks at all of us and says "Ed won't be coming today. He said his time would be more productive at another Tai Chi school in the vicinity".

Mike said this with a big grin on his face. I did not understand that grin for a long time. Mike would always be grinning, showing a full set of teeth with his eyes wide.

Mike was embarrassed. He was ashamed. The grin was a physical reaction to his emotions. He looked like he was grinning widely because that is one way a kung fu man can release the energy generated by strong emotions.

I personally understood completely. The group was not something to be proud of. It was not a cohesive unit. The people were cowed because of Mike's need to control people. There was no real conversation that would interest a person like Ed.

Instead of the group being a group of strong, independent people who were all striving to make themselves better, Mike and Ed were leader types, while the lest of us appeared to an outside observer like servants or baggage of Mike's. No one in the group, in my opinion, stood out on their own like an individual kung fu man should.

Of course we all reacted to the news. What was Ed saying? "I wasted my time with you guys. You are not worthy of a further investment of my time. You do not measure up".

The entire group focus that Mike pushed every week was how special the group was, how special the individuals were, and how the people here were something more than average people.

And Ed, Mike's long time friend, who should be disposed to being polite and charitable towards Mike and not hurting his feelings or shaming him, plainly, in no uncertain terms, shows his scorn for Mike's work with the group and the individuals Mike is working with.

We all knew Mike was shamed. Writing this down now? I think he must have been totally humiliated. Knowing how desperate Mike was to appear as someone special, and to have a close friend turn up his nose and so obviously spurn Mike and his work must have been like acid burning in his stomach.

I have to wonder now, was this event one of the things that led to the eventual dissolution of the group? Was Mike's shame at Ed's opinion of him so strong that Mike decided he would rather get rid of people he had accepted as students and made promises to, than to deal with the dismissive attitude Ed had for his group.

Writing that makes my heart break. I know Mike. I know he would throw people overboard in a heartbeat if he thought it would further his own self interests.

This is fact and not the writings of an unhappy person because later events bear out the statement above. Various people suddenly began to have doubts or perhaps even altercations with Mike, and these people left the group.

I have to wonder now if what seemed the normal course of events, people losing interest and leaving, was really an orchestrated plan by Mike to chase those people away.

It is so sickening to think because of how the group was set up. We were all working together, we were loyal to each other, we were helping each other become better people......everything was about how we were one big happy family.

Family does not throw people out. At least not in any family I would call functional. The father does not chase the children out of the house because the neighbors say things that makes the father ashamed of the child. The good father works with the child to change it.
The bad father might chase the child away or throw it out the door.

Even though I am writing this post and these are my memories, I am still shocked and saddened to recall this event and what occurred. I idolized Mike. I don't mind saying that because he was a kung fu man that had true abilities. He was not one of these kung fu guys who runs a school at the mall. I had no doubt at all I wanted to learn his kung fu skills.

To think that after everything he said, he would react to someone saying negative things about him, just the same way as the rest of us who were students and not the teacher, makes my stomach sink to the floor.

How could he do that? How could he be like that? I know in my heart that he was a better and stronger man than that if he chose to be. Why would he lose strength or conviction or confidence in his work and the people he made promises to?

Mike always stressed that everything was destiny. If destiny had brought all of us together, even if some of us did not measure up in Mike's eyes, he should have accepted us. Even if someone made Mike feel ashamed over his students, Mike should have felt in his heart that destiny gave him those students for a reason, and he was supposed to stick with them.

I guess what makes my heart sink is the realization that Mike did not truly believe his own words, deep down inside of himself. He only believed them when it was easy.

That is too bad. I was Mike's student, which to my way of thinking makes me lesser than him, yet I have full confidence and trust that destiny plans things out. I force myself to deal with uncomfortable situations as much as I can because I know my personal desires have nothing to do with what is happening.

Destiny has lessons and a plan for me, and it is best if I go along with it. Whether I like it or not, whether I resist or not, destiny always seems to get what it wants. That is the whole basis of the advice to not try to control events and let the course of destiny take it's course.

For Mike, who was supposed to be better than me, to think that he could outwit or alter or change destiny, by getting rid of students that brought shame to him, forces me to accept that he was not the man I thought he was.