Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Toughness and Serenity

A hope I have for this new administration: that the uncommonly calm-seeming Obama will make it hip to be understated.

I have a stake in this. While I strive to be bold and clear, I'm naturally inclined toward saying things only once and none too loudly.

Now we have a leader who has managed this enormous political feat while seeming almost serene. In the last week, Charlie Rose asked of one of his guests: "Does he have any outrage?"

I very much admire the combo of leadership and calm.

See?! Soft-spoken does not mean wimpy.

A person can boldly step to the front of the free world without getting all rowdy about it.

I thought I'd seen someone else writing to the same effect, with the title "Born to Be Mild." But it was about a motorcycle.

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K.B. said...

Obama was born in the Year of the Ox. He seems to be a super-Ox, that's for sure! My sister is also an Ox, and they are some of the best people to walk the earth ever. They're best known for being rock steady and for having one of the strongest work ethics ever. What they say they will do, they do, and no one should ever get in their way, as the Ox is perfectly capable of either shouldering them out of the way or walking right over them.

It's normally fairly difficult to make an Ox lose their temper (although you can do it easily enough if you know the right buttons), and they're usually not flamboyant in the least, although Obama's charisma in his speeches doesn't surprise me in the least.

What's your Chinese zodiac sign? I'm a Rat, myself, and a fairly typical one, I'm afraid -- garrulous, friendly, and either leadership freaks or control freaks depending on whether you like me or not. :)

kenju said...

I was very impressed with his quiet serenity on Tues. night, almost as if he knew he would be there and his destiny was just playing out the way he knew it would.

Peggy Payne said...

I'm either an Ox or a Rat, K.B., depending on which restaurant placemat I've looked at. I can identify with both. B'day: January 8, 1949.

When I heard the news, Kenju, I felt too as if I'd known all along--or at least for a couple of hours anyway. But the truth was, I'd been very worried for months, not at all sure what might happen in the privacy of the voting booths. But maybe Obama did know. I wonder.

K.B. said...

You're a Rat like me, though born so close to the end of the Lunar year, you'll have a lot of Ox-like tendencies, so it's no wonder you identify with both of them. :)

Even though it's our Rat year this year, it's an Earth year, and therefore not quite as lucky and all our way as our birth years normally are.

I think Obama's calm, unflappable reactions were very Ox-like, all through the election, and the very methodical, together, and on-message campaign he ran with his team was also very Ox-like. I think the nation could really do with a bit of Ox leadership right now...

Peggy Payne said...

Thanks for this info, K.B. Does this Earth Year end in January?

K.B. said...

I think it'll be January 26th that the Lunar year actually starts, but New Year's celebrations will go (as usual) for two or three weeks around that date.

Did you know one of the Chinese traditions is to clean out all your household goods and shelves before the new year? The thing is to go into the New Year clean and tidy, and with a bit of room on your shelves, so you can show the gods you have room for new STUFF. :)

The two-three-four week period of the New Year celebrations is supposed to be spent as you'd like to spend the entire year, so Chinese people visit their relatives, give little gifts of money, food, and candy to each other, eat a lot of good food, and otherwise live well, to make for an auspicious rest-of-the-year.

Peggy Payne said...

Excellent plan. I'd like to discover what's in the backed-up corners of my house.

K.B. said...

I just remembered -- I once wrote up one of my favorite folk tales for an online mag I write for occasionally and thought you might enjoy it.

I think that probably my favorite folk tale is the tale of how the Rat came to be the first animal of the Chinese zodiac. There's a tale about how the animals all got there and why they're in the order they're in, but my favorite part is when the Ox and the Rat appear in front of the gods at the same time, before all the other animals, and both claiming to have seniority over the other and therefore deserving of first place in the zodiac.

The Chinese say it demonstrates some of the character differences between Rat and Ox people, but I thought you might like to hear it since you have elements of both in your horoscope!

The story goes as follows, although some versions of the story say it was the Buddha rather than the Celestial Emperor who called the animals to him:

"We are both clever and intelligent and hard workers," said the Ox to the Celestial Emperor, "but I am much larger and stronger, so I should be first, O great Emperor."

"Well, you are certainly much larger than the Rat," admitted the Celestial Emperor. The Rat, thinking quickly, spoke up immediately.

"O Mighty Emperor," Rat said, "I am in all actuality much larger than Brother Ox!"

"Are you!" exclaimed the Emperor, hiding his smile behind a fan while Brother Ox burst out in laughter along with the rest of the Emperor's court.

"Yes, I am!" said friend Rat, perkily. "In fact, if you showed us both before the people, I am sure they would acclaim me as such."

Brother Ox burst out laughing again, and said, "O mighty Emperor, this would be a wonderful contest, and surely would settle the matter right away. Friend Rat here is so much smaller than I am, regardless of his hopes! The people would certainly be able to acclaim me as larger!"

"All right," said the Emperor, "then let us hold the contest right away and get this settled as soon as possible."

Friend Rat, who had been thinking hard after Brother Ox had spoken, held up a paw, bowing very deeply. "Your Imperial Majesty, I have a boon to ask!"

"Let me hear it," replied the Emperor.

"Well," said the Rat, "I am but a humble Rat, and I am willing to believe that perhaps Brother Ox is right, and the people will acclaim him as so much bigger than I. But I would so hate to lose face if I am truly so *much* smaller, as he says. Would you please make me three times my size, so I would not be humiliated so completely if Brother Ox is right?"

The Emperor looked questioningly at the Ox, who burst into laughter again. "You could make him ten times his size, and he still would not be as large as I am! I don't mind, O Emperor!" And so the Emperor smiled to himself a bit, waved his hand and made the Rat three times his usual size, and then caused them both to appear before the people all over China, Friend Rat perched cheekily upon Brother Ox's back.

And everywhere the two appeared, the people would come running to look, ignoring the astonished Ox and pointing at the Rat and shouting to each other, "My goodness, that Rat is huge -- will you *look at the size of that Rat!*"

And that is how the Rat came to be the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac.

Peggy Payne said...

Fascinating, charming, and well-written. I take new pride in my Rat-ness. And this is a reminder of the power of: it's not that the bear dances well, it's that the bear dances. Very inspiring,too, for those moments of being unavoidably in a size contest with an ox.

K.B. said...

Why, thank you, ma'am. :D

Rats, by the way, love to do things well, but they don't like doing things well simply for the sake of doing the job well. (That's actually more of an Ox trait.) Rats love applause and the adulation of the crowd! (Who doesn't? Even Brother/Sister Ox will preen as praise for his/her stellar work is laid on!) Ratty loves it when people actually notice how clever s/he really is, it makes them feel appreciated and useful, and Ratty does love to be truly useful and appreciated.

Rats are also very good at flattery and compliments, because they know how nice it is to hear those things. ;)

I tend to find that what Chinese astrology is really about, rather than just the list of traits, is motivation. We all do and feel and see the same things, but our motivation for these same things is often different from the next person's motivation. What Chinese astrology is useful for is helping to figure out one's own motivation for things -- half a sort of short-cut to enlightenment, half suggestions of what your signposts for one's own way might be.

Our Western ears hear "you're a Rat" or "you're a Pig" or "you're a Snake" and bring our own ideas of those animals to the table, but the Chinese believe that Rats are the ultimate survivors and are the natural leaders (but not the natural rulers, that's a bit different) of humankind, that Pigs are the natural companions of humankind, that they're jolly and good and lovely friends, and that Snakes are seriously the most literally attractive people alive.

So be proud of your Rattiness!

Peggy Payne said...

So interesting! I do think pigs are good company, I enjoyed the ones I came across on the street in India.

Peggy Payne said...

So interesting! I do think pigs are good company, I enjoyed the ones I came across on the street in India.

K.B. said...

I was quite startled upon meeting some pigs at my Irish friend's farm last year...up til that point, the only pigs I'd ever met face to face were Pot-bellied Pigs. I had NO IDEA that pigs were that huge! :) But very friendly, and my friend says they're very intelligent.