Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, June 23, 2008

Three Years

It was nearly three years ago when I began blogging here at Cook Ding’s Kitchen. There have been over 25,000 hits.

For starters, there are those who wonder who the heck is Cook Ding? Cook Ding is a character is a story by Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zi) in the Inner Chapters section of his eponymus book, which is one of the foundational texts of Daoism. Here below is a translation of that story:

A cook was butchering an ox for Duke Wen Hui.
The places his hand touched,
His shoulder leaned against,
His foot stepped on,
His knee pressed upon,
Came apart with a sound.

He moved the blade, making a noise
That never fell out of rhythm.
It harmonized with the Mulberry Woods Dance,
Like music from ancient times.

Duke Wen Hui exclaimed: "Ah! Excellent!
Your skill has advanced to this level?"

"What I follow is Tao,
The cook puts down the knife and answered:
Which is beyond all skills.
"When I started butchering,
What I saw was nothing but the whole ox.
After three years,
I no longer saw the whole ox.

"Nowadays, I meet it with my mind
Rather than see it with my eyes.
My sensory organs are inactive
While I direct the mind's movement.
"It goes according to natural laws,
Striking apart large gaps,
Moving toward large openings,
Following its natural structure.

"Even places where tendons attach to bones
Give no resistance,
Never mind the larger bones!

"A good cook goes through a knife in a year,
Because he cuts.
An average cook goes through a knife in a month,
Because he hacks.

"I have used this knife for nineteen years.
It has butchered thousands of oxen,
But the blade is still like it's newly sharpened.

"The joints have openings,
And the knife's blade has no thickness.
Apply this lack of thickness into the openings,
And the moving blade swishes through,
With room to spare!

"That's why after nineteen years,
The blade is still like it's newly sharpened.

"Nevertheless, every time I come across joints,
I see its tricky parts,
I pay attention and use caution,
My vision concentrates,
My movement slows down.

"I move the knife very slightly,
Whump! It has already separated.
The ox doesn't even know it's dead,
and falls to the ground like mud.

"I stand holding the knife,
And look all around it.
The work gives me much satisfaction.
I clean the knife and put it away."

Duke Wen Hui said: "Excellent!
I listen to your words,
And learn a principle of life."

This has been on of my favorite stories.

I had just recently changed jobs when I began this blog, and have just recently changed jobs again a few months ago. I am still with a Japanese company, and am once again surrounded by Japanese colleagues who are encouraging me in my study of their language. My progress is slow but steady. This will be a life time study to achieve any fluency.

My oldest daughter has graduated from the university and is now officially unemployed. I can find no fault in her efforts to find work in her field though. The opportunities are few and the competition is fierce. I am sure that something will break her way soon. She’s had four interviews with one company. She’s supposed to hear something this week.

My youngest daughter just finished a successful club season in travel volleyball. The summer camps have begun, and we look forward to a successful high school season for her senior year. She has some small schools interested in her playing volleyball for them. I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll find a fit for her. The main point is her education. If she can play at the college level and get some money knocked off the school costs to boot, then it’s a no brainer. The question is no longer can she play in college, but whether there is a good fit or not.

My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. As I look back on our life together, I look forward to our retiring together in about another 10 years or so. We can clearly see the day when our oldest will be out of the house on her own. In another year, the youngest will be off to college. Just as it was when we first started out, it’ll just be the two of us.
I am approaching one year of training in the Wu style of Taijiquan. I have learned the sequence of both the 108 standard and 54 round competition forms. I have been introduced to the “24 forms”, the supplementary exercises of the Wu style, and I have also been introduced to the first three of the 12 basic types of push hands exercises.
It’s been very good for me. I feel great. I am relaxed, and clear headed. I feel strong.
For my second year of TJQ training, in addition to continual refinements to both the 108 and 54 forms, I hope to refine the 24 forms and better integrate them into my personal practice, especially the standing practice; as well as learn more of the push hands sequences (with whatever skill level I can bring). I am not really interested in adding any weapons forms until after my youngest graduates from high school. So my priorities are: form refinements, integrating the 24 forms into my personal practice, and going deeper into push hands practice.
With the coming of the warmer weather, I haven’t been lifting weights or walking on the treadmill as much. I find myself outside doing yard work a lot. Truth be told, I’d rather get my exercise that way. As the seasons change, we change the way we live our lives. This is one of those changes. I have also come to accept that I don’t get as much reading done during the summer as the winter, which makes one less thing I can make myself crazy about.

With the economy the way it is, especially here in Michigan, there are a lot of vacation homes for sale. I’ve dreamt of living on a lake for years. We’re looking, but also realize that taking on a vacation home is taking on another obligation (payments, taxes, maintenance, time to get there and back, fuel, etc.). I can tell you that the prices aren’t as rock bottom as the news might lead you to believe; at least for the listings we’ve looked at.

Speaking of the economy, in the yin and yang of things, I see a lot to be encouraged about. In Michigan, especially SE Michigan, when the automakers do well, we all do well. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed much over the years. The Detroit 3 (who used to be known as The Big 3) are all making painful changes that they really should have made years ago.

When people start buying cars again, it will be like rain in the desert around here.


Billy Jack said...

Congratulations on these several milestones!

And i must say,I also love this particular passage from Chuang Tzu.

Best regards.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for relating that story which I only vaguely recalled from reading Chuang Tzu many years ago...

And congrats on all you've accomplished with Wu style in a short time...


Zen said...

Time does fly these days. The old Rolling stones song comes to mind. Time waits for no one.
Away, congrats on all fonts. Omedeto gozaimas! Ganbatte!

Rick Matz said...

arigatou gozaimasu.