The Wisdom of Beautiful Whiskers
by Bataan Faigao
4 EAT CONGEE AND RELAX
First a story: an old man, a student of Lao Shr, saw another man hitting a tree with his fists. This man has been hitting this tree morning and night for eighteen years. His punches seemed strong. The old man laughed. He stood in front of the tree."Try those on me and see what happens," the old man said.
The other man hesitated. "I could kill you," he said. "I've been perfecting these punches for eighteen years. "
The old man laughed. "Come on, " he said. So the man hit him and nothing happened. He hit him again and again.
The old man said, "You see, your eighteen years have gone to waste."
The man asked him, "What's that thing you said you practiced?"
"Tai-chi ch'uan," said the old man. "I learned it from Cheng Man- ch'ing."
The man asked him to take him to the teacher so he might learn from him.
"Sorry, " the old man said. " He is not teaching, so you can not see him."
The old man went to Lao Shr to relate the story. Lao Shr was amused. The old man said, "Why don't you try it? Come and hit me. This guy has been studying for eighteen years and I didn't feel a thing. "
Lao Shr said, "Come now, If I don't hit you now, you'll get killed by somebody else someday. If I hit you I will kill you for sure. I'd rather kill you myself than have somebody else do it." Lao Shr gave him a light push. The old man cowered in pain and was for a moment, stunned. Later on the old man said that his heart went in many directions and he started seeing stars. A heavier blow would have killed him.
Lao Shr talked about being careful about throwing your energy around. "Never let anyone lay a blow on you. Always get out of the way." He looked at me, pointed to me intently, and said, " Watch out for guys like him. They can throw concentrated energy quite easily. This is based on their metabolism. They seem to be able to concentrate more. Energy is concentrated into digestion and assimilation of food. The abdominal walls develop thickly. This keeps the ch'i in the tan tien. I've known many thin people, people with faces that look like skulls. They are dangerous."
Later on I got curious about the whole business of being thin. I had alway meant to ask him. But I didn't think that it was important enough.
Lessons on the west side highway. Trailing lights speed high over the wharves. To the left, the dark, blind river. To the right, thousands of black windows. Once he tried to figure out how many people were in their houses and who were out, etc., which intrigued me, the way his mind worked. It was always oriented to people, to the masses, to humanity. For him there were no winged lions, no stallions that soared the sky, nor mythic mares that roamed the earth.
I told him that sometimes I worried that I was too thin and my mother always bugged me about it, saying I should eat.
"First of all, it has nothing to do with how much you eat. Eat a lot of watery things. Eat a lot of congee. "And he ended with a recommendation to get an elecric rice cooker. "Also, relax. Eat congee and relax."