The misinterpretation of hard work and the truth of Kung fu panda

Hard work isn’t what it’s made out to be

 

I liked the movie Kung Fu panda because it really exemplifies life. It all starts with the bad guy in the movie, Tai Lung, a snow leopard. I empathize with him. Tai Lung is angry because his trainer and kung fu master, Shifu, kept putting it in his head that he was going to be chosen as the Dragon Warrior.  This position would give Tai Lung access to the Dragon Scroll, which is believed to hold the secret to limitless power. All he had to do was to work hard. Well, this guy did. He worked hard, but because of his pride and arrogance (which was encouraged by master Shifu), he eventually forfeited the Dragon Scroll.

Imagine what that must have been like for him. All this time preparing, training to be the chosen one, doing all that work…….. for nothing, an empty promise. So yeah, he’s angry.

Shifu: You were not meant to be the Dragon Warrior, that was not my fault!
Tai Lung: Not your fault? Who filled my head with dreams? Who drove me to train until my bones cracked? Who denied me my destiny?
Shifu: It was never my decision to make!

I know how he feels because I’ve been there. I remember times when I worked very hard on things, going over and above what was required. Yet instead of being rewarded for what I had worked for, I was not. I was sometimes even punished, treated like a trouble maker, irresponsible, and incapable. My parents and society had taught me the whole “work hard and get rewarded” sermon. I believed it. I did it, but there was no reward.

I felt like Tai Lung in those moments. According to the Bible, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Tai Lung and I were ‘heart sick’. I remember asking myself, “why did I do all this work?” So in one particular area, I stopped putting in any extra effort. I didn’t stop working though; I wasn’t that type of person. I just stopped putting in the extra effort. And things quickly went downhill from there.

Po the panda, the hero in Kung fu Panda, stands out. This panda was not as gifted as Tai Lung, in fact he didn’t have any natural talents. He had nothing. Furthermore, he failed many times during the training sessions. Master Shifu wanted him to fail, to give up, to quit, BUT…… he didn’t. He didn’t give up despite all his failures, and despite the attitude of master Shifu. (However, I must point out that Po didn’t have to fight ‘heart sickness’ because nobody told him, like people told me and Tai Lung, that all he had to do was work hard. His hope wasn’t deferred because he didn’t have any promised expectations.)

If you check the dictionary, hard work and diligence are grouped together. While one of the definitions of diligence is hard work, the other definition is perseverance or  persistence. You see in many cases, what hard work won’t get you, persistence will.

Persistence may seem hard at times because of all the emotions, and the feelings that stand in the way as boogeymen in the shadshadows, making their appearance look big even though they are in fact very small. These emotions remind you of all the work you did, the disappointment, and the anger. Nevertheless, persistence is really just a decision to keep doing what you were already doing, to not abandon it.

So let’s re-imagine Tai Lung’s and my disappointment. All these emotions were bubbling up in us like a volcano. The smoke and the lava are clouding our vision. If we had just taken a step back from our emotions……. then Tai Lung would have seen that he just had to decide to apply the same hard work that he was already doing to his behavior. And I would have seen that if I decided to continue putting in the extra effort, I would have massive leverage on the people that refused to give me my due because I could always confidently say that I gave 120%.  I believe that if I had done that, things wouldn’t have deteriorated at the rate and to the level they did.

So I say instead of hard work, persevere, people, persevere.

 

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The unbearable love triangles

love triangle

Have you noticed that the wave of love triangle stories all center around one woman and two men? Or that the majority of these stories are written by women? I understand the dream of having two men after a woman, it gives that woman’s self esteem a boost. “Two men desire me, there’s something special about me.” And if there’s something special about the main character, the reader shares in the character’s glory.

As an adult, I really dislike love triangles though I liked them as a teenager. I used to read Archie comics, and cheer and weep for Betty, the frequent loser in the Veronica, Archie, Betty love triangle. As I matured, I began to see that men and women who put themselves in the middle of this type of situation are usually very selfish and self centered individuals. Interestingly, despite my ‘new found’ distaste for love triangles, I’ve still read some books with female characters who find themselves in the middle of two guys. While I don’t always like these females, I would utterly despise a male character who found himself between two woman, and I probably wouldn’t read the book. Is this a double standard? Yes it is. He, he

 

Zahrah the Windseeker and living in fear

 

In Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor (Mbachu), Zahrah, the main character, was born with vines growing in her hair. In the Ooni kingdom where she lives, people born liked this are called “dada”, and they are mistrusted. So as you can imagine, Zahrah has no real friends at school except Dari, a boy who dared to be her friend.

Growing inside of Zahrah is a talent she doesn’t know how to handle. So she and Dari decide to learn more about her gift by entering the Forbidden Jungle. These excursions lead to misfortune, and Zahrah must now overcome her fear in order to fix the situation.

forset
I believe that I must have read many books about characters overcoming fear, but I never really applied them to my life. Growing up,  I lived in fear. I was cheerful, quick to smile, loved to debate, but I was also fearful. fear2I see and understand this fear now as an adult. I was afraid because I was ashamed and ignorant. I didn’t know how to express or defend myself properly. I didn’t know how to tell people why something was wrong or right. I found that getting angry sometimes helped, but I was also afraid of getting angry, and afraid of showing my feelings or my displeasure on personal issues. For some time now, I’ve thought this experience particular to me, but Zahrah’s tale opened my eyes to the fact that many authors write stories that actually deal with my experience with fear. This means that many people can understand me, and knowing that you can be understood is a good feeling.