Holding Back Chaos

I heard a great story from George Xu the other day.  On his last trip to China, one morning he found himself in a Taxi line.  I assume I don’t have to tell readers how much transformation has had to come to China in the last 50 years for there to be taxi lines.  So anyway he is waiting in this line leading to the curb and just as he is getting to the front of it a big guy cuts in front to take the cab.
So George says, “Excuse me, there is a line here.  You have to go back and wait in the line.”
The guy says, “Screw you.”
So George maneuvers in front of him and backs him toward a pole where he places his hand on the front of the guys neck, and says, “Please go to the back of the line, everyone is waiting.”
Since George has him completely covered with his weight, the guy mumbles, “Okay.”  So George lets him go and moves toward the cab.
Suddenly the guy says, “Hey, I wasn’t ready!”
So George says, “Okay, are you ready now?”
And the guy says, “Yah, now I’m ready.”
So George gives him one arm circle that sends him flying and rolling on the ground.
The people waiting in the taxi line all begin clapping.  Several people offer thanks because this same guy has done this before.
Then the guy gets off the ground and comes forward in a bowed posture and while gesturing with his hand says, “Excuse me, the taxi is yours.”  Then he saunters off, presumably to find another way to get to work.


Taxis-in-China-3-520x338I love this story, but I think I heard it three times before I understood the humor and irony in it.  Key to the humor is the line “Hey, I wasn’t ready!” and George’s flat response, “Are you ready now?”
This is a very particular type of violence.  Really it is a category of social education.  It doesn’t even come close to qualifying as self-defense.  Here is the four part test:
Intent--the guy’s intent was to take the taxi, not to cause injury.
Means--possibly, he was bigger.
Opportunity--well, George is a martial artist so the guy really didn’t have opportunity, and there were a lot of other people around who might have gotten involved.
Preclusion--nope, George could have walked away without injury at any time, and obviously that is what most people would do.

In my mind I’ve tried to spin it as a modified duel, or an older man protecting his physical space, or a spontaneous attempt to stop a sort of snatch and run type of crime.  But the story doesn’t support any of those interpretations.
If the assault happened in the United States and the guy decided to go to the police to try to prosecute George for assault, George would probably get off one way or another.  I mean all those witnesses took his side.  That kind of thing has a big effect on judges, juries and district attorneys.

The explanation that really fits this story is as follows.  Society is a balance between chaos (wu) and order (wen).  Chaos is waiting, mingling about in everything that appears ordered, waiting to break out and cause havoc.  A taxi line is just a temporary facade, just around the corner death and destruction are on the edge of their seats.  Order is maintained only because some individual heros, men of prowess, privately cultivate inner mastery of chaos and can unleash it in the service of order.  These men of prowess are all independent wanders in the realm of ‘rivers and lakes.’  It is only through their temporary agreements, their alliances, their fleeting commitments to a particular order of society that there is a central authority at all.


While I was writing that last line, I watched a San Francisco Police officer crossing the street in a crosswalk while doing spinning tricks with his baton!  Balls!

"Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes" "Outlaws of the Rivers and Lakes"