Shortly before I was born, a short-lived but apparently popular television show emerged on ABC. It was called Kung Fu, and it starred David Carradine, who died in June 2009 under quite unusual circumstances.
Here’s a clip of the show – note the extraordinary special effects and dynamic slow-motion action scenes:
While the show ended in 1975, Carradine’s bizarre personal life continued to keep him in the news, and he occasionally appeared in other programs and films, gaining some measure of celebrity. Like many of the relics of the 70’s, upon further examination, the quality and stability of Carradine’s performance withers. There is however, one legacy left to us by Kung Fu, and even if you haven’t seen the program, you’ve likely heard the following description used by a more experienced person when training a novice:
“Grasshopper”, or frequently, “Young Grasshopper”, You’ve heard it, right? Or said it yourself?
The term comes from the first episode of Kung Fu, when Master Po is teaching Kwai Chang Caine (Carradine) how to build his mental and spiritual power. Throughout the series, Master Po called Caine “Grasshopper” to emphasize that he was still not fully developed as a martial artist. Since I never saw the show, and I have no particular affinity for or connection to David Carradine or Master Po, I’m going to take the term and apply it for my own purposes, which gets to the purpose of this post.
Too many people today are grasshoppers. Too many people jump from one blade of grass to the next without realizing they just abandoned a really good blade. The old expression, “The grass is never greener” strikes me as untrue and incomplete. Indeed there are places where the grass is actually greener.
For example, in Seattle in the summer, there are lush lawns with vibrant stalks of thick green grass that make the brown dry hills of California look downright cemeterial. So, while the grass may actually be greener, the deeper meaning of the expression can be completed by amending it thusly:
The grass may be greener, but it’s still just grass.
And grass isn’t particularly riveting or romantic. It’s not special. It’s just grass. It’s everywhere and it’s made up of pretty much the same stuff, regardless of type. Whether it’s a Fescue or a Bermuda, it’s a ground cover that we (or someone we pay) cut every couple weeks. We can tend to our grass and work really hard to make it bright and healthy and weed-free, or we can just clip it when the neighbors complain. Either way, it’s just grass.
Too many of us think that the grass is greener when it comes to our current relationships, our job, our personal development schedule (you do have one, right?), and even our own lives. So, like the young grasshopper we jump to something or someone new, because it/he/she looks bright and shiny and new! After a few weeks or months, we realize that it/he/she is just grass.
Just like the last patch we left, it needs food and water and attention to flourish and grow. Just like the last patch we left, if we mistreat it and ignore it, it will become weed-infested and brown and ugly. And so, what do we do? We hop. Again. And Again. And Again. Until we reach the end of our lives with a trail of hopping littered with incomplete relationships, unfinished work and unfulfilled dreams.
Along the way, we influence others to become young grasshoppers; immature, underdeveloped people with deficiencies in conflict resolution, relationship building and real intimacy, with themselves and those they profess to love. So, next time you’re stuck on a dry stalk of grass that once was so green you couldn’t resist it’s allure, think about what brought you there in the first place. Bloom where you’re planted.
Or tend the grass you’re sitting on. You might just be surprised at how much fuller and richer your life becomes when you learn to work hard and sit still.
Just this once. Sit still, grasshopper.