Every time I go for a run, I’m grateful for Danny. Every stride, every breath, every mile is infused with his teaching, and he was an asshole to me. Not always, but when he was, it really hurt. Not forgiving him was costing me and shrinking my “hard-on” in the world, to paraphrase writer David Deida.
He brought a new way of running to the world, brilliantly melding it with T’ai Chi. He was an accomplished ultra runner, who also practiced that martial art, and somehow, one day, saw the possible fusion of the two. I read his book, became convinced, took some classes and became a certified instructor, able to make money teaching other runners the form.
I wished I had thought of it.
On several different occasions, I had the chance (and the honor) to be one of his assistant instructors in a large group setting. In two of them, he embarrassed me publicly, in front of the students, for reasons I could not understand. My face felt flush, I couldn’t speak, I wanted to quit and run away. To my credit, I hung in there. After my fourth and last workshop with him, he complimented me and said “good job” when we all debriefed. I hung ’em up after that, didn’t re-certify as an instructor and moved on.
Those are the simple facts.
As I saw them.
Then, I did a weekend for men and heard the idea that not forgiving someone is akin to drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. I was carrying around a heavy weight through the world. I made a commitment to call him and talk it all through, which, with difficulty, I did.
He didn’t even remember any of it. He did a lot of workshops, all over the world, spoke at big events like the Boston Marathon Expo and worked with a lot of different assistants. One isolated event in New York City and another in Massachusetts, would not have been that memorable. I felt like an idiot for doing whatever I had done to warrant his opprobrium. How could it happen with this man I had come to admire and respect so much? How did I screw this up?
He appreciated my call and said he never intended to cause any of those feelings for me. When we ended the conversation, I felt powerful. I had stopped drinking the poison and maybe had even reached some of the “backdoor enlightenment” he often referred to.
It made me wonder how much of it was in my head, the skull-sized kingdom that author David Foster Wallace once wrote about. Not that it didn’t happen, but rather what did it mean. He’s only three years older, but we take our fathers however we can. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes many men to father a boy. And it’s not a one and done deal. I’m 67 now and still need fathering. I remember a man from the west coast, now deceased, who used to say of our men’s circles, “We’re gonna be the father you never had.“
I never got to say “fuck you” to my dad, who died when I was 5. I never had to deal with his being an asshole to me. Never got to say “Thank you, dad,” anyway. I’ve needed other men for that. I thought this writing was just about forgiveness, but it’s also really about fathering, wherever you can find it.
I move differently through the world thanks to this man, this teacher. He’s an avatar of the active lifestyle I want. He’s humble and he’s given the world a great gift. He’s given me a way to stay fit and be attentive. He is proprietary about what he created, the way I hope I’d be.
So, thank you, to one of the fathers (and assholes) in my life. Because of you, I can more fully embrace the vigorous life I want.
I have another way to live into Dag Hammarskjöld‘s own longing –
Neither the master
Nor the slave,
A buoyant heart
Shall bear you along,
While you cheer my way
With your lively flame.
You must not flinch
Nor fail me when
The moment comes
To do the impossible.
Read more of Craig Jones and his “GratiDude” HERE