The Wu Shu Kung Fu academy with its flash and marketing

Had a name—all its t-shirts, slick, glossy booklets, and mob appeal


My Hung Gar Sifu didn’t want too many of his t-shirts out in public

Sifu wouldn’t tell me what all the flags and trophies in the corner said, were for

Not really on the map, not a crowded academy but

Authentic—Sifu could have gone off on his own but for honor to the lineage of  his school

Known among those who know in the community

The dedicated advanced esoteric group—I think all China-born

Pitched in when rent came due

When we two schoolboys brought Sifu to Harvard phys-ed

He filled the gym and the school reporters came around

After warm-ups and ch’i exercises and everybody was practicing their form

A group burst out in applause watching me do lau gar, them on gar one

I guess it all fell apart when I graduated and Sifu kicked out the other schoolboy


My mind wanders to Pound sitting at the feet of Yeats

The last to adore the washed up out of vogue poet old

And Frost got a full-time poet-in-residence only

At the end of his legacy life when he wasn’t writing anything memorable

Struggling for money all his heralded life’s fame and no fortune

And Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater

When everybody fancied him a washed-up has-been

Still, the young architecture student spoke of his disdain for Wright

Admiring a post-modern building so deconstructed out of everything human

That a woman vomited in one of its rooms

Mozart lost his vogue, tossed into a pauper’s grave

Mozart a pauper


Our culture has lost the image of Fortuna’s Wheel, so like changing luna

Except as a Merv Griffin Vanna White gameshow

And the neglected superior in the wake and wash of slick mob appeal

After all, it was the mob who assassinated Jesus

The same ecstatic mob welcoming Him into Jerusalem a week earlier

How Much Is Enough?

This Christmas, we had a very good turnout at church.  By our standards.  Which is to say that it looked like a full church.  I was happy with the turnout.  But all this is relative.  It is a small church.  Even if it were packed, attendance would have been few by standards of mainline churches. But compared to other Christmases, and compared to regular Sunday attendance, it was a good turnout.

This kind of thinking can be translated to other areas.  I think of the music business.  I know of a band in Canada which I like very much.  They fill smaller concert halls, and play festivals, but not stadiums.  They even have a Juno award, which is Canada’s equivalent to the US Grammy. They could play to packed bars every night if they wanted to, an opportunity which many good bands would envy.  I don’t think they have a gold record.  Most likely not a platinum record.  If you are a musician, how would you measure success. How much is enough?  Stadiums?  Platinum records?  Airplay?  Filling concert halls?  Playing to packed bars.  Playing enough venues to pay the bills?  Then there is the issue of how long your popularity would last.  Some immensely popular rappers, with platinum records, are gone in a year or two.  There is a new guitar player in town who is having a hard time breaking into the music scene.  But he plays better than anyone else in town.  It’s just that he’s new.

Then there are likes, follows, visits, and views for bloggers.  How many are enough?  25?  50?  150?  1,000?  4,500?  Do you write with an eye to posts that will attract views, visits, likes, and follows?

These issues arise in still more areas–money, possessions, status, friends, prestige, education, popularity.  How much is enough?

I think that the only way to maintain sanity, is to do what Emerson, Thoreau, and Frost, among others, have advocated for.  Follow your own music, march to the beat of your own drummer.  The new guitar player in town plays incredibly well to nearly empty bars.  I know of a preacher who conducted a service for one person, and of some synagogues that can’t open the Torah, because they don’t have a quorum present.  This does not indicate the quality of the performance, message, or belief system.  We write, preach, or play best when we do our best, and not worry too much about how much or many fans, congregants, or follows we have.