Thoughts by Richard Bleil
As spring is upon us, my thoughts turn to kites. I had a lovely date once with a lovely woman and we bought a lovely kite. It was graduate school, I think. It’s gotten to the point in my life where I’ve lived in so many different places that they begin to merge together in my mind, but I distinctly remember a cute little shop downtown. I had $20 to my name, and the kite was more than I could really afford. The shop keeper really wanted me to have that kite, but at the same time, he wanted as much of the bill as he could get. He kept trying different prices on the kite so between the cost and the tax he ended up with the full bill.
Well, he got close.
Turns out, this act of what was actually kindness (he took all of the money that I had, but, he did let me have the kite under price after all) is an odd example of the point to this post. The yin and the yang, the opposing forces of price and tax that gives rise to a goal, which for me, was to provide an experience with a woman that I can’t even remember anymore. None the less, I hope she had a lovely day and a lovely memory of the kite. I remember the day, even if not the individual with whom I spent it.
Kites are odd things. They only work in a world of contrasts. Beautiful, sunny days with strong winds blowing in new weather. When they are flying, they only fly because of conflict.
The kite flies highest when the conflict is greatest. The force of the wind blowing on the kite, fighting against the tension of the string holding it back. You would think that the kite wants to fly away; it dances, dips, dodges, climbs higher, falls lower, always fighting against the string. The ironic thing is that if the string is released, the kite falls back to the ground.
It doesn’t really want to fly at all.
The kite is actually in it for the fight. It wants to oppose the restrictive force, and when it finally wins, it discovers it has nowhere to go.
Some people live for the struggle, and some struggles are better than others. For some people, the struggle lifts them high into the sky, shining in all of our glory, showing off for all to see, and some of never get to lift far enough off of the ground to be noticed. Some struggles are for the better, like a kite, and some fights are not so glamorous, like getting a carp on the line where the best you can hope for at the end of the fight is a fish too smelly to even be edible.
I’ve had my share of struggles. I fought against arrogant and bullying bosses, and I’ve fought for the betterment of institutions that would rather I never was a part. Like a kite, I don’t know if anybody noticed or not.
Taoists speak of “Yin and Yang”, the two opposing forces through which all movement is possible. The Yin of pushing against the ground with the foot in each stride, and the Yang of the surrender of space for our body to move forward.
It’s a funny thing, strife. People avoid it, and hate it, but when I think back, perhaps my proudest moments come from when I was standing up for others, resisting wrongs, fighting the battles that couldn’t be won.
It’s kind of like houseplants. Plants will grow until they get so large that they can no longer grow in their original pot. When this happens, there are really two choices. The first is to do nothing, no strife, no struggle, and no more growth. The other is to transplant it to a new larger pot. The plant doesn’t like this; it’s a struggle, and for a while the plant won’t do well. It’ll lose leaves, look sickly, and generally battle the strife, but in that strife, it will grow larger, stronger and more beautiful.
I’ve since hit the ground. Those holding the strings have let go, and I’ve crashed. Hard. I’m wondering, in fact, if I’ll ever have the opportunity to fly again, if I’ll ever again find my cause. But I can tell you that when I did fly, I flew very high. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe I need to find a way to make that enough.