Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | January 10, 2011

On Becoming A Master: On Becoming Human

I recently caught a program on channel 13’s series, American Masters, on Bob Dylan, and it gave me much food for thought. First, it gave me a new appreciation for Dylan, but more importantly, I enjoy learning about the lives of people who are considered “masters.”

I would suggest that perhaps the greatest fulfillment as a human is when one masters something. To be able to practice one’s craft and do it not just well but with mastery is an incredible human experience. Too many of us are trapped into doing things to just get by, to do it just well enough, but we never carve out the time and discipline to practice something to the point that it is mastered.

I offer as a caviat here that I’m speaking with the concept of humility fully at the forefront. A master of something won’t go around bragging that they are the master of this or that, but, I believe a person knows when they’ve mastered something, and there’s a quiet self confidence that goes with it. I couldn’t imagine Bruce Lee not knowing or denying he was a master, and in all humility, express a truth.

The American Masters series has highlighted many people, artists, musicians, writers. There are masters in every area of life; there are masters in coffee shops, in factories, in martial arts. What does it take to become a master? First, I think there is a natural, in born talent or inclination to a particular field. Mike Murdock says, we do not choose what we are to become, we discover what we are meant to become. This can be an esoteric discussion, but mystically, I think there is truth to the statement. Second, takes learning, having a good teacher, being obedient in the sense that we listen to learn. It takes practice, dedication, and discipline. Bob Dylan couldn’t have become a master, despite all the natural talent in the world, if he hadn’t practiced and written and performed as much as he did. The same goes for every master. Jackson Pollock always comes to mind because I was so impressed by the movie–How great is it to be able to light a cigarette and paint all day, every day!

I’m sure many masters have their demons and their struggles. I wonder if this too is a necessity to becoming a master.

This post idea has been a few weeks in the making, and as I’ve thought about it, I was thinking of some other things that could be considered one of the great experiences of being fully human.

So, becoming a master of something, or, in martial terms, developing good gong fu. Love. Love maybe ought to be considered the ultimate experience of being fully human, love for our fellow human beings, romantic love, loving and being loved. It is an incredible experience to love some one, it is even really cooler to know that you are loved.

What other experiences fulfill us as humans? Achieving something/ Building something, making something. I guess these come under the category of having good gong fu. Winning in a competition? The contemplative experience? Developing a sense of awareness and mindfulness? Doing the right thing? Being faced with a dilemma and doing the right thing? Saving someone?

It is a wonderful thing if a person can discover the thing that they are called to “master.” It then becomes a duty and obligation to fulfill that calling. What else can it be but sadness and pathos if a person has a particular talent that they never develop.

For me, personally, in all humility, I will say I don’t believe I have “mastered” anything quite yet. I love writing, I love my tai chi practice. I have developed good gong fu in playing the guitar, in making coffee(I worked at Starbucks), in selling shoes, and in the contemplative practice of tai chi chuan kung fu. Am I the best at anything? I know there are people in the above fields who could run circles around me! But I have my own personal experiences; I practice my tai chi, I’ve taught tai chi, I’ve played live gigs in NY, I’ve been in love, and I’ve been loved. I have developed over the years some very wonderful friendships. Having friends should be included.

I believe I have discovered my calling, although I have not figured out how to pursue it fully. I am called to the contemplative practice of tai chi chuan kung fu, which encompasses much–fighting skill, spiritual development, awareness and mindfulness, writing, teaching, and gaining wisdom.

The human experience has been given to us. It is our obligation to experience it in its fullness.

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