I had to admit sometime ago that the TV series Kung Fu may have been my earliest exposure to Zen. It made sense once I’d read the stories about Bodhidharma bringing Buddhism to the Shaolin temple, and also giving them the foundations of what would become the martial art called kung fu.
I was a big fan as a kid, and probably made my parents more than a little crazy with my endless attempts to mimic David Caradine’s moves. But as much as I enjoyed seeing Caine kick butt in the Old West, my favorite parts were always the flashbacks depicting different lessons with his masters.
Because of that show, the word “grasshopper” (Master Po’s nickname for the young Caine) has become synonymous with “student” or “apprentice.” So when I see one of my kids demonstrate some aspect of Zen in their own life, I call that a “grasshopper moment.”
Now this certainly isn’t a monastic kind of thing, not any kind of formal training (and I’m certainly in no position to be that kind of teacher). What I’m hoping is that I can at least walk the walk (not just talk the talk) and have Zen be the way I am in the world, without any outward advertising that it’s “Zen” — just life. That takes some doing, but my other hope is that my kids pick up on this by example, that it’s just a way to be without necessarily knowing what it is.
My recent grasshopper moments were from my daughter on, of all things, Facebook.
I’d found clips on YouTube from an 80s documentary on Kurt Vonnegut and posted a link to them on my Facebook page with the comment “I miss Kurt.” A short time later my daughter added this comment: “Well . . . Everything does have to end sooner or later . . .”
Talk about “getting” impermanence! I think Kurt would be impressed.
Then, a few days later, she felt the need (like so many of us Facebook users) to post a pithy saying to her Facebook status. And this is what she wrote:
“Don’t wish for what is not already here, do what you can, with what you have, where you are right now, and that should satisfy.”
My first thought was that she had somehow managed to channel Emerson. Then my more rational thought was that she may have started reading something other than “Twilight.” I had to know who she was quoting, and I asked her.
“I made it up” was her response.
“Really?” I asked, trying very hard not to be insulting. “Since when do you use the word ‘satisfy’?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “It sounded smart.”
So like any proud father would, I posted this comment about her status: “That’s my girl.”
And like any embarrassed daughter would, she quickly deleted the comment.
That’s my girl.