All I Needed to Know For Rosh Hashana, I learned from Master Oogway.

Now, I know I’ve told people that Kung Fu Panda is my favorite movie this year — but I don’t know if I’ve told you all why. Every time I watch it, I get something more out of it… but most importantly, I hear lessons I need to hear over and over again.

Tonight, on Rosh Hashanah, I felt compelled to watch 2 scenes from the film — both at the Peach Tree of Heavenly Wisdom… and both with Master Oogway.


EXT. JADE PALACE – NIGHT

A dejected Po stands under a peach tree in the moonlight.
Oogway approaches.

OOGWAY
I see you have found the Sacred
Peach Tree of Heavenly Wisdom.

Po spins around, his face dripping with peach juice.

36.

PO
(mouth full)
Is that what this is? I am so
sorry. I thought it was just a
regular peach tree.

OOGWAY
I understand. You eat when you are
upset.

PO
Upset? I’m not upset. What makes
you think I’m upset?

OOGWAY
So why are you upset?

Po sighs, there’s no use trying to lie to Oogway.

PO
I probably sucked more today than
anyone in the history of kung fu,
in the history of China, in the
history of sucking.

OOGWAY
Probably.

PO
And the Five… man, you should
have seen them, they totally hate
me.

OOGWAY
Totally.

PO
How’s Shifu ever going to turn me
into the Dragon Warrior? I mean,
I’m not like The Five. I’ve got no
claws, no wings, no venom. Even
Mantis has those…
(he imitates a mantis’
front legs)
…thingies. Maybe I should just
quit and go back to making noodles.

OOGWAY
Quit, don’t quit. Noodles, don’t
noodles.

Po looks confused.

37.

OOGWAY (CONT’D)
You are too concerned with what was
and what will be. There is a
saying: Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery, but today is
a gift. That is why it is called
the present.

Oogway hits the tree with his staff as he walks away and a
peach falls into Po’s open hand.

This last part — “Quit, don’t quit. Noodles, don’t noodles…” it hit me hard when I was preparing for the bar exam. Every day felt like a a trial of will. Every day I was sacrificing my day for my future — a future that I felt might not even exist… and for all I know, it still might not. But I came to realize that it was a GIFT to be able to spend my day, all day, every day, devoting myself passionately to the pursuit of that dream — just as Po spent his day, all day, every day devoting himself passionately to the pursuit of becoming a kung fu master.

My dream stopped being the dream to become an attorney. It became the dream of simply completing all 3 days of that exam because I was physically having such a hard time preparing for it. Becoming an attorney became secondary to just making it through the test. But just like Po, I kept going at it, over and over again. I achieved that dream.

I think that may be why, when I think about the future right now, I’m so calm. I have ideas, but I’m not tied tight to them. I’m pretty sure — no. I know that music is coming back into my life whether I want it to or not… but I’m pretty sure law’s going to be involved too… like I’m going to be living some kind of dual life… which brings me to my next scene with Master Oogway.

EXT. JADE PALACE GROUNDS – EVENING

Oogway stands under the peach tree, deep in thought. Shifu
rushes in, emerging from the mist, extremely agitated.

SHIFU
Master! Master!

OOGWAY
Hmmm?

SHIFU
(out of breath)
I have– it’s– it’s very bad news.

OOGWAY
Ah, Shifu. There is just news.
There is no good or bad.

SHIFU
Master, your vision…your vision
was right. Tai Lung has broken out
of prison. He’s on his way!

OOGWAY
That is bad news…

He turns to face Shifu and stares at him, eyebrow raised.

OOGWAY (CONT’D)
…If you do not believe that the
Dragon Warrior can stop him.

SHIFU
The panda? Master, that panda is
not the Dragon Warrior.
(MORE)

50.
SHIFU (CONT’D)
He wasn’t even meant to be here —
it was an accident!

OOGWAY
There are no accidents.

SHIFU
Yes, I know. You’ve said that
already. Twice.

OOGWAY
Well, that was no accident either.

SHIFU
Thrice.

OOGWAY
My old friend, the panda will never
fulfill his destiny, nor you yours,
until you let go of the illusion of
control.

SHIFU
Illusion?

OOGWAY
Yeah. Look at this tree, Shifu. I
cannot make it blossom when it
suits me, nor make it bear fruit
before its time.

SHIFU
But there are things we can
control.

Shifu kicks the tree and a peach falls to his feet.

SHIFU (CONT’D)
I can control when the fruit will
fall.

A peach falls on his head and Oogway chuckles. Shifu tosses
the peach in the air, leaps up, and splits it with a chop.

SHIFU (CONT’D)
And I can control–

Shifu punches the ground, creating a hole and places the seed
in it.

SHIFU (CONT’D)
–where to plant the seed. That is
no illusion, Master.

51.

OOGWAY
Ah, yes. But no matter what you do,
that seed will grow to be a peach
tree. You may wish for an apple, or
an orange… but you will get a
peach.

SHIFU
But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!

OOGWAY
Maybe it can. If you are willing to
guide it, to nurture it. To believe
in it.

Oogway covers the seed with dirt.

SHIFU
But how? How? I need your help,
Master.

OOGWAY
No, you just need to believe.
Promise me, Shifu. Promise me you
will believe.

SHIFU
I… I will try.

Oogway smiles, then glances up at the sky, then back down to
Shifu.

OOGWAY
Good. My time has come. You must
continue your journey without me.

He hands his staff to a confused Shifu.

SHIFU
What… what are you..?

Oogway backs away into the swirling fog.

SHIFU (CONT’D)
Master, you can’t leave me!

The petals surround Oogway as he approaches the cliff’s edge.

OOGWAY
You must believe.

This scene is especially powerful for me on several levels. It acknowledges free will while also admitting that there are things in life that you simply cannot control. You CANNOT control who you are! You can control what you DO to a degree, but not the stuff you’re made of. We are all humans. We all are born. We all have the same basic needs and functions. We all die. No matter how much we wish we were something else, we will always be human.

It’s because of that fact that I cannot have stopped myself from getting MS. It wasn’t something I could control. It was simply part of my destiny… and as Master Oogway says… there are no mistakes.

I’ll admit. There have been times where I have been angry at God over being “dealt a bad hand.” I’ve cried and wondered, “why me.” But then I’ve also thought “why not me?” I have a loving family and good friends. I have good insurance, and I like to write. If it is part of my destiny to educate or to be kind to the right person on the right day, then maybe this is part of His plan for me, or even His plan for the Universe. Even the smallest pieces in the largest design can be important. And even if there is no God, and my Athiest friends have it right, staying angry or bitter over the situation won’t make me a happier person, and choosing to feel like my challenges are somehow helpful to others makes them seem easier for me to handle, so I’ll take my positivity where I can get it.

But more than that, learning to “let go of the illusion of control” has let me become a happier, kinder, calmer, more understanding and patient person. Because really — God or no, we really have very little control in this world over anything other than how we choose to act and what attitudes we choose to take in life.

Oogway makes Shifu promise to BELIEVE — to believe that nothing is an accident and to believe that, with Shifu’s training, Po will be able to defeat Ty Lung (the bad guy, for those of you who haven’t watched the movie.) Really, the lesson is to believe that anything is possible if something is meant to be and you have prepared for it.

Master Oogway also mentions that he cannot make the tree bear fruit before its time… and that’s something that I have to remind myself of — and that we should all remind ourselves of, especially at times like Rosh Hashanah… that verse in Ecclesiastes. That there is a time and a season for everything. A time to sow and a time to reap. A time to be born and a time to die. I’m sure I’m butchering the hell out of the verse, but you know what I’m talking about… rather than go all “Holy Book” on you — what I’m trying to say is this: Just like everything happens for a reason, everything happens when it’s supposed to, too. You can’t rush life. You can’t fast forward. You can’t skip to the end.

Impatience is possibly the biggest robber of happiness you can find, because LIFE *IS* THE MESSY STUFF IN THE MIDDLE. It isn’t the list of accomplishments. It isn’t having the job. It’s getting the job and then doing the job. It isn’t owning the house. It’s finding the house… moving into it… living in it, decorating it, cleaning it, maintaining it, making memories in it — and you do that no matter WHERE you live.

My whole life, I’ve put myself on a schedule. I think we all do this, consciously or not. I expected myself to have the whole married/kids/house/career thing in my pocket by now. I expected myself to do things on the same timeline as my parents. Of course, I also expected myself to have put out a CD and somehow to have started a multi-million dollar corporation. Granted, I’m not always the most reasonable with my expectations. REGARDLESS of that, I can tell you that I have been disappointed in myself repeatedly for not having done things “yet.”

If I cannot make a tree bear fruit before its time, how much sense does it make to be angry at myself for not having had children yet? None.

So I find my inner critic learning mercy from an animated turtle, late at night, and my wounded psyche takes a deep breath and hopes the message will stick.

Fortunately, I do believe that I have whatever it is that I need inside of me to get the job done when the time comes, whatever that job is, and whenever that time may be.

That’s the great thing about destiny… you can’t fuck it up. You just have to be.

Amen.

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