Pat on the Back

by Jinryu

“Teacher, wot dosu ‘spattered’ mean?”

“Where is that?”

“‘…The snow-spattered path wasu narro and treacherouss…'”

Spattered… spattered…

“Who here plays videogames?”

I draw a stickman on the wall.

All the boys and even some of the girls raise their hands.

“What’s a headshot?”

“Headshotu? Headshotu?  Head is go plaf!”

“Yes,” I nod.  “Exactly!”

I draw an exit wound with a funnel of blood flying out of the back of the stickman’s head.

“The way the blood lands is the spatter.”


If you called me somewhat cocky or intimidating in person, you’d probably not be the first person to mention it.  Frankly, I don’t think that I show off all that much– but I suppose that’s just a question of definition.  I do talk about myself quite a bit, especially on this blog– I mean, why not? It is my blog, right?

Therein lies a difference though– I don’t talk about myself to put others down.  I do it, above all else, to remember myself, given that even though I’ve only been around for 25 short years I’ve already developed such bad memory.

And why not write only to myself in a diary? Well, perhaps someone is interested, simply.

While there are certainly many people out there who are really showoffs, I don’t really care about these people.  The vast majority of people who are my friends are the exact opposite.  They display potential, and perhaps they are even using it and developing it, but what they don’t realize is how special they are or what they are capable of.

It’s so easy to get caught in a cycle of resltlessness, of “I’m no good at this” or downright self-loathing.  I was thinking about it, and that’s one of the things that I’m realizing from the fact that I’m at once teaching English, while learning guitar and TKD in Korean.  When I started off out here, there were plenty of things that bothered me because I simply couldn’t understand why it was so hard to learn something.

And then came the guitar.  Less so with TKD because that had it’s similarities to previous activities.  But with guitar, there I was in a foreign medium– unable to do the simplest things.  Sure, I’d heard guiatar.  It sounded simple enough.  But just as my kid recognize even the simplest English words perfectly and yet can’t prnounce them the way he wants to, so too did it bug the hell out of me that a single chord could involve the coordination of so many thoughts and physical particularities all in simultaneity.

It is frustrating.  It is easy to dismiss one’s hard work and all that has been gained and to settle for something less than what we saw.  It’s easy to say “I’ll never be as good as him/her, but I’ll be just good enough, y’know?”

And that’s a trap.

I was really annoyed the other week because I had been practicing some muting techniques for several days and I couldn’t do it– my wrist hurt enough that I simply had to stop playing for fear of injuring myself.

You don’t understand how frustrated I am.  Or do you?  Everyone knows that feeling.  But sometimes we forget what it is, because we never have anything to compare it to– perhaps we don’t pat ourselves on the back enough.

Like all things, conceit and humility are both necessary.  You can’t just say 1 part showoff, 1 part humility.  I think that if you can go with 1000 of each, then you can accomplish more.  Would it make sense to you if I could ask you “How big is your tao?”

That sounds like a strange idea– we like to think of balance in terms of fractions.  In that sense, 1000/1000 is the same as 100/100 or 25/25 or 1/1.  But it’s not, and I think this is one of the things that I’ve been trying to explain to people for a long time but never really had an analogy for the purpose.

Lowest common denominators isn’t a great example, but my point is that there is a difference between 1000/1000 — it has to do with the details, the precision of the event, the range of experiences.

I think that, for example, there has to be a push pull.  When a student is learning english, you can’t just tell him “You’re doing good in some ways and bad in others.”

You’ve got to make the reporting process a dynamic one, where every past success or failure is built upon.  The scope has to get wider.  If you can make your student feel confident, then push him to overconfidence– then cut him down to size.  Repeat. Repeat.  And that is how experience in life is.

The real sad situation is when people are too conservative and stick to a particular camp and try to do everything out of that.

Anyway– it’s 2pm here.  The day’s events so far?

I feel I have so much to write but i don’t know where to begin.

For starters, I’m listening to Dave Matthews.  I haven’t listened to him for a while, but Mark (my garage guitar teacher) was kind enough to send me some of DMB’s stuff which I’d never heard before and it’s awesome.  Now that I’m playing guitar myself, I’m finding that I can actually hear things that I couldn’t before– I can hear the techniques, I can imagine the strumming patterns– it’s beautiful.

And that sets the stage for the rest of my day.  I had a guitar lesson this morning and it went pretty well.  I mean, as always, it never goes bad, because the teacher really works to accomodate my progress.  But at the end of it all he asked me if I was having fun– yes, I was.  He said I’d improoved.

And it’s not that I can’t take a compliment.  My friends will say bad and good things to me all the time.  It’s not that I don’t value their thoughts.  But when I get a compliment from someone whose skills I really respect, it really feels like something right.  It feels like some sort of lifeline when you’re struggling through something.  It’s a glimpse of hope that to the rest of the world, you don’t look like a guy blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back.

… acknowledgement.

Getting that kind of appreciation from my teachres reminds me that when it comes to my students, I cannot ever forget to appreciate them when they do work hard.

I mean, we’d all like to think that we’re independant and of strong will, to the point where we don’t care what others think.  Yeah, that’s ideal.  But really, who’s perfect?  The truth is, we do get depressed, we do feel worthless.  Maybe not always, but every now and then at least, and for some more than others.

During those times we need to be reminded that we are getting somewhere.  We need checkpoints.