How I learned karate from a raisin.

Lately I’ve been thinking about where my life has been, and about where it’s headed. I find myself thinking about the past, about mistakes I’ve made, regrets I’ve had. People long gone, only to be remembered, and at that, vaguely, like a faded snapshot from an old Kodak. I’ve started to wonder why it is, that I dwell so much on the past, and I never really live in the moment. That’s odd, don’t you think? I can’t wait for tomorrow, but when it gets here, all I think about is yesterday, and then I start anticipating tomorrow again. But wasn’t today, tomorrow, just yesterday? Ouch, that one made my head hurt. It’s true though. Right now, this is where I am. Here.

As much as I had some fun at the good Dr. Grad Student’s expense, there was a lesson to be learned there. I think I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Everything we do, everything we touch, everything that touches us, changes us. Changes our course, the fundamental direction of our lives. Like the monster-spider from my youth, or the small blue-jay I named Danny. They are both disconnected, and seemingly insignificant, yet they helped shape the course of my life.

So, perhaps the simple raisin has had the same effect, changed my life, taught me something. Now, I know it sounds funny. But maybe Dr. Grad Student was my Mr. Miyagi. His method of teaching karate was at first, silly. No less or more silly than focusing on a raisin, this I can assure you. I mean, come on. Wax on, wax off, paint the fence, sand the floor. Ridiculous. We all laughed, and chuckled right along with Daniel during the movie, but inside, we knew better. We knew that Mr. Miyagi was a wise old sage, who knew exactly what he was doing. And honestly, don’t you think Daniel did too? Really down deep? Would he really have kept painting the guy’s fence for free if he didn’t think something bigger was happening? Nah, neither would I.

So when something is happening in our lives, making us take stock, or imparting some small nugget of wisdom we’ll carry with us, do we really know that’s what’s going on? I don’t think so, or at least not at the cognitive level. Just like beginnings and endings, these moments go by hardly noticed. Or maybe, they’re more like a magic trick. Slight of hand, if you would. It looks like I’m concentrating on a raisin, when in fact, I’m learning karate.

So if everything we do, or touch has an impact on our lives, then certainly my time with Dr. Grad Student has had to have an effect on both of us. But what? Besides re-igniting an addiction to raisins, that is. I think what Dr. Grad Student taught me is that I’ve wasted so much time thinking about tomorrow, when really, all of my life is happening right before my eyes. Who knew? I wonder if that’s what she set out to teach me. And I wonder what did she learn from me? What lesson could a giant, raisin eating, pumpkin headed whale with a blow-hole the size of a quarter have imparted? I’m reasonably confident, that in the short term, she’s learned not to give more than one raisin to her hungry patients. That still makes me chuckle.

When I volunteered for the driving angry study, I did it because it sounded interesting, and it seemed like it could only be fun. Both turned out to be true. But, maybe, somewhere deep inside this old whale, I had an inkling that this might be a chance to learn something new, an opportunity to grow. Dr. Grad Student asked me why I followed through with the study, despite the fact that I didn’t connect with the “mindfulness” techniques she was using. I told her it was to help her complete her paper, and that once I agreed to do something, I stick with it to the end. This much is true. What I didn’t say, is that maybe I also thought I might learn karate.

I believe I did.


© Steven R. Smith 


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