Warnings in June 2008

I once saw a man fly, and the image will forever be clear in my head. He didn’t flap his wings, float over the mountains, or hang up there like an albatross. From a stand-still position, he quickly twitched his hips, and he was air-born. His body got horizontal, and he did a 360 so slowly that I almost lost it as I watched. I’d never seen anything even close to that before, and I highly doubt I will ever see something like that again. He was teaching a friend of mine in a shabby brick building that had many of the windows missing. Later, the two of us became friends and often talked over tea at his house. As the years passed, I saw less and less of him. Both of us were busy, and he moved to a school on the outskirts of town. Then he called one day and asked me if I had free time for lunch. I was out the door before I hung up the phone. I wondered how his students were doing – how the future of Wushu was getting on. Then to my initial dismay, he said that he wasn’t doing much teaching anymore, but instead he was organizing fire drills in his university. He said that teaching everyone how to get out of a fire was much more important than teaching a few people the art of Wushu. He is a gifted man who doesn’t forget simple yet very important details. His students were studying how to make a building, but many didn’t know how to get out of one in an emergency. My friend, Master Ji, was not doing what he did best, he was doing what was needed most. He was right. I was full of admiration.

In the wake of last month’s disaster, I found myself admiring many people. Large companies, rich nations and wealthy individuals donated. Old people, young people and even the nation’s poorest donated. Many places held events, gave their profits, and brought people together. People were in trouble, and people helped. Volunteers offered money, supplies and hard hours. In our interview this month with Peter Goff, he says that people also need “basic distraction.” I hadn’t thought much about that. We salute all of those directly involved in the disaster relief, but we also recognize those that kept things going normally. People kept their shops open, they served food, they kept businesses running, and they showed up on time. If they thoughtfully distracted people from the losses for even a moment, then they should be applauded. In our interview with Meg Young and Kate Leyman of Ecologia, Kate says that she encouraged people to go out and play with kids. For many people in many places, today is a day for a lesson, a fire drill or some practical study. In Sichuan, today is a day where people need to see someone perform, rescue, operate, organize, distract, play or maybe even fly. We thank all of you who do what you can and do what is needed.

By Tim Hoerle