Chris is in bed with a sick headache, which I had yesterday. I am under not so much orders as a hint to blog but I am a bit at a loss for what to say. I’m afraid I’ve finally run into the throat-level clothesline of “Who does an artist or a writer answer to?” Trying to please people is, I think, destined for failure. You can’t, and trying will cripple whatever immediacy and truth and urgency your writing might otherwise have. The answer for me seems the same as for anyone else: suck it up and write anyway. A Buddhist spin on it might be to say, “Don’t make up your mind that So-and-So will react in any given way.”

Ah! here’s something fairly noncontroversial I can write about, in order to get past the Censor. We watched Forbidden Kingdom the other night. You may not be aware of this, but the movie is in part about Monkey! He’s played by Jet Li, wonderfully. I really enjoyed it. The acting was excellent, and given that the story is a fairly broad kind of fantasy, it was surprisingly realistic. For instance, one female character who has been badly traumatized refers to herself in the third person. I learned later that this is actually a fairly common coping mechanism. Also, my very favorite koan was included and performed by Jackie Chan, which made me squeal and giggle and bounce.

So, the story is there’s this kid, a typical American who’s crazy for kungfu flicks, to the point that he even collects them in the original Chinese with no subtitles. His supplier is an old shop owner in his city’s Chinatown. Well, the kid is bullied, and forced to enable this gang of not-terribly-realistic asshole kids to rob the old guy. Bad things happen, and the kid gets transported to ancient China. He is in possession of Sun Wukong’s magic staff, and must return it.

The best aspect of this movie is the way it treats kungfu. As far as my white, American self can tell, this is a very Chinese way to treat it–I mean that it doesn’t give in to Hollywood much. Kungfu means something like human achievement, which is why you can have a kungfu of painting or dancing or something. The film has a painful to watch training sequence that is careful to point out how difficult this level of human achievement is to reach, and how painful. Even better, the whole human is not ignored. This is not a matter of teaching the kid how to kick ass. He is also taught how to focus, meditate, and control his qi. The koans aren’t included to be funny (although they are funny), they’re included because that’s how kungfu works. And yes, I’m aware that I’m using a Japanese word to describe a Chinese process in a Chinese film. The Chinese word is apparently gong-an. Did you know that? Me neither.

Final word: check this movie out of the library and watch it, and then when you go to learn something about Buddhism, Taoism, or Chinese religion, remember it and use it and your learning will probably be deeper. Also, it’s just a ton of fun. That Monkey, man…he’s just great.

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