The inspiration for this Article came to me while watching the Pilot Episode of that classic TV Series from the 70s called ‘Kung Fu’. The Series’ Central Character is a Shaolin Monk, ‘Kwai Chang Caine’ (played by the late David Carradine,) who escapes to America some time during the 19th Century, after killing the Emperor of China’s Nephew (who purposefully kills Kwai Chang’s Mentor ‘Master PO’). The incident is recalled in flashback during the Pilot Episode. Kwai Chang heeds the words of his dying Mentor that he needs to leave China and so the Series begins with Kwai Chang Caine, somewhere in the American West, a fugitive wanted in China. No mention is made as to how the then Chinese Authorities (probably under British Rule,) are able to track Kwai Chang Caine in America, nor how there seems to be wanted posters of him throughout the American West. And the Bounty on his head aside, no explanation is given as to just why anyone, the American Government included, would be interested in extraditing a Chinese National back to China in the 19th Century when America had so many Chinese People working and dying on railroad constructions and mining projects, often working in appalling conditions. That aside, ‘Kung Fu’ was an excellent Series, showing, as well as demonstrating that Ancient Wisdom still has a place in the Modern World – Even now.
The inspiration for this Article came from a scene that leads to a confrontation with another Shaolin Monk who has tracked Kwai Chang Caine to the Mining/Construction Site where he is working. This Shaolin has abandoned the ways of the Monks but not their fighting skill. He is probably the only man who can take Kwai Chang physically as both are exceptionally skilled in the Martial Arts. On first encountering the Shaolin Monk turned Mercenary and appalled at what he has become, Kwai Chang tells him:
A Shaolin Monk would not sell himself for a handful of rice”.
This one line was inspirational to me because in it Kwai Chang is telling his adversary that while he (Kwai Chang,) has kept to the path shown him, no matter how better this Former Shaolin turned Mercenary thinks he is, he can never be better nor true to himself, because he has betrayed everything he believed in, by taking a far easier option in light of whatever difficulties he has encountered.
Yet, how many of us sell ourselves for less than a ‘handful of rice’? For nothing even? In my profession, actors are ever increasingly expected to work for less than ‘A Handful of Rice’ and are expected to be grateful. I am not sure what planet such people hiring hail from if they don’t realise that creatives and artistic people have bills to pay and commitments to meet, just like everyone else. The irony of such situations are those who expect others to work for nothing, would never do anything for free themselves. Much like the Shaolin Monk turned Mercenary, they think they have the upper hand, until they come up against someone who despite their impoverishment, has stayed true to their path and has the strength and the will to tell such people ‘Thanks but no thanks. I don’t work for nothing and I will not compromise myself, or my beliefs, no matter how much exposure you think I will get by working on your project for nothing. Sometimes no matter how tough things are, one has to stand their ground and say, ‘This is who I am’.
I don’t bother with New Year Resolutions but if I had to make one, it would be the same as the commitment I make to myself each day, which is to:-
Value myself and my skills; place a value on what I do and lastly – avoid all assholes that neither value me nor any of my values. I am always grateful for the work but not so grateful that I would work for nothing and feel good about it. There is more to me than you think. I am worth far more than just ‘A Handful of Rice’.