Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review of "American Shaolin" by Matthew Polly

The cover is worth the price of checking it out of the library: "Flying kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China" with a picture of a monk carrying a Burger King bag. Now that's good.

And it really was an entertaining read. Basically the story of a boy becoming a man, and I didn't even have to think that up - he tells you. He is marking off his list of obstacles to becoming the Matt that he should be. What drives him to China and a shaolin temple is number 3 on the list: "cowardly." He goes on a journey hoping to learn some kung-fu from some tough Asian brothers, and discovers much more.

Just reading about real life in China, that extremely large elephant in the kitchen of global power, is fascinating by itself, especially told from the viewpoint of a common traveler meeting with common Chinese people (admittedly, a person who can take a kick in the crotch is not all that common). It is also an interesting read from the anthropological view - we see the commonality and the vast cultural differences from the eyes of someone that hasn't yet formed a crusty layer of rigidity in how relationships work across boundaries.

Overall, a good, quick read. Not a classic, but worth checking out.

What is even more interesting to me is the list. Matt makes a list of what he needs to do to become a "man." Where did he get the picture of what a "man" should be like? How do you determine what is your final goal of what you should be, and how do you assess it?

My own goal, in those frank moments when I squirm while thinking of my incompetencies, is "fully human," admittedly from the viewpoint of a follower of Jesus. From this viewpoint, I will one day be there and at the moment I'm a work in process. I love conversations in which we discuss the characteristics of someone fully human. I do have my own list of obstacles:

1. Patience

I honestly have much work to do, and more than this blog could hold. Patience is at the moment my number one.

So what are your lists? How are you working on them? I have asked a gentleman older than myself to meet with me occasionally so we can talk about my goals, and who I can bounce ideas. It's been great for me, but you'll have to ask him how much he likes me bugging him every week...

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1 comment:

Odgie said...

Patience is surely one of mine, along with self-discipline.