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Scary Hobos and Traveling Oil Salesmen

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:32 PM by Eric Banks

Be what you are.  This is the first step toward becoming better than you are. 

~Julius Charles Hare



Look in the mirror.  Go ahead, stop reading and go look in the mirror.  Go; do it.  Did ya do it?  What did you see?  Who did you see?  Let me ask that again, “Who” did you see?  Who are you?  Are you who you want to be?  Are you who people think you are, or what they want you to be?  Are you what you think people think you should be?  Who are you?


I’ve always been fascinated by unique people, those who are who they are.  They don’t conform to the “cool” standard of others, not because they are trying hard to be different, to be strange, but because they just know who they are and they enjoy being unique, quirky and a little bit odd.  Deep down, aren’t we all a little odd, a little different?  We are, but sometimes, unfortunately, we decide (for one reason or another) that it’s better to be what others think we are, say we are, or say we should be; we decide that we must conform at all costs and our uniqueness begins to fade.   The great adventure isn’t just in exploring the deep dark depths of space, though I for one would sign up in a heartbeat to be a member of the USS Enterprise!  Uh, sorry…the nerd got out again.  No the great adventure is in learning who you were created to be and determining to be that unique, different, odd, quirky person.  God purposefully made us all oddly unique, so why not be the odd thing He made you to be!


A while ago, I came across a handful of very interesting videos on the net that feature an unassuming man, who at first, and second and third, glance, looks like a scary hobo.  This guy teaches martial arts on the streets of a major US city, and yeah, he LOOKS like a scary hobo.  But as you watch the video, you begin to see something deeper, something not so surface-level.  As you watch, you begin to realize that this man, who happens to be very well educated, not just in the arts, but academically as well, knows his stuff.   And after watching the videos a couple of times, I’m convinced that he has reached such a high level because he just “let go” of caring what others think, and he “let go” of trying to be something or someone he was not.  He is a true and gentle, and very skilled, martial artist.


I have a good friend who sells what could be _the_ best organic olive oil in the whole wide world, and he also teaches traditional Japanese karate in the St. Louis area.  He was in town on business recently and I asked him to stop in and teach my Thursday night classes.  Though I’ve known him for several years, trained with him and stayed with him and his family many times, it’d been a while since I was in a class with him teaching.  A few years ago, he “let go” of some old ways and fully embraced a new way…and the results have been unbelievable.  I saw a different man teaching my classes that night; he was mentally and physically relaxed, and his technique and energy flowed smoothly and easily and powerfully.  I can see that the changes that have taken place in him in the past three or so years are the result of him no longer seeking to conform to a rigid, external construct; he is now learning to let go and flow, and just be himself.


At its core, a true martial art seeks to develop the individual inside the individual student.  Sure, on the surface we all learn and do the same techniques, kata, etc, but as one progresses, one begins, or should begin, to express their true self in the manner in which they perform and execute their techniques, and in how they live life.  And actually, I would dare say that one can never really reach that crazy-high level of skill we all desire unless and until one learns to let go, and learns to let the real person inside, the unique, different, odd and quirky bird they are, flow and be free.


Being yourself, finding out who you are and being that person is no easy task, believe me.  It takes bravery and it takes mindfulness.  Bravery, because sometime when you look inside, you may not like what you see.   Good news is, anyone can change and be better than they are, and being better than you are now is the essence of becoming your true self. Bravery is also necessary because those who value conformity over uniqueness will not like it when you step out of line; be brave still.   And it takes mindfulness because we must constantly be on guard to avoid falling into the easy-pleasey conformity way of living.  Everyday, we must be brave, and every moment, we must be mindful.

Who are you?  Are you, you?  Are you seeking to know and to be the unique you that you were created to be?  That’s part of the great adventure.  Or are you trying to be who they say you are, who think you are, or who they think you should be?  Why not just be you?  You’ll be better for it, and the world needs you.   


Let it go, and let it flow.