Iron and Silk

January 13, 2009

I just re-read Iron and Silk after having first read it about 5 or 6 years ago. I had heard the author, Mark Salzman, being interviewed on the radio. I was captivated by his unusual vocal style and storytelling ability. I wished I had recorded the audio from this program, but the book would have to do instead.

What a treat it was! I was just beginning to study Tai Chi back then and I felt right at home with his stories of wushu teachers. I had also traveled some myself. I had been an exchange student in Japan just before my senior year of high school (1971) and spent two years living in Israel as a postdoc and young lecturer (1982-84) so I knew what it felt like to be the “oddball foreigner”.

The book was just as charming the second time through. Salzman knows how to listen to his surroundings and how to tell a story, but he is also a charmer in his own right. Many of his escapades left me jealous of his ability to skate on through with a smile on his face. He is like a tree that survives any storm by bending in the wind. I, on the other hand, can never bend. I stand tall and stiff  as branches snap off on all sides.

I still feel too stiff. Every day is a trip into foreign lands. I work too hard to keep myself upright, but who am I, really? Would bending make me any less myself?

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