Yesterday brought the sad news of the death of David Carradine, who was found hanged in a hotel room half way across the world, where he'd been making his latest movie. He was 72 years old.
Younger people will probably know Carradine best for his role in the Tarantino film "Kill Bill", but for me he will always be the Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970s tv series "Kung Fu".
I loved that show when I was growing up. So much so that I've probably made reference to it a thousand times before. The long-haired, soft-spoken Buddhist who could kick the living crap out of anybody he wanted to made an impression on me that is evident, if you look closely, even to this day.
I don't like violence. I have only ever hit one person and I did that because I was afraid he was going to hit me. As it turned out one punch was enough. But I shook like somebody with convulsions for an hour afterwards. And I felt like I'd cheapened myself by resorting to such crude behaviour.
Caine's violence, in the show, struck me as a metaphor for resolution. Standing firm for what you believe regardless of the consequences. And that is something I have usually managed, despite the occasional moment of cowardliness, when I've sold my principles out for personal gain or because I didn't have the guts to stand up and be honest.
Caine's gentle priestly ways, which the violence of his circumstances never took away from him, were important for me to see in the romantic hero of a prime time tv show because I knew that I was different. That I didn't feel like the other children on the street, in the playground, in the classroom. I didn't get invited to play football or to talk to the girls. But Caine's indefatigable difference showed me that that was okay. Maybe even the mark of something special in a person. I have ceased to believe now that I am special, but it was an important crutch to walk on through a difficult adolescence.
Now, aged 44, I wear my hair long, walk barefoot wherever I can, and call myself a Buddhist. My bookshelves have Chinese and Japanese poets mixed in with Beats, Modernists, the Underground poets of today. Siddharta looks down on me mellow-eyed from the wall as you enter my lounge.
I probably wouldn't have had any of that if my mother hadn't suggested I watch the first episode of "Kung Fu", after the pilot movie had thrilled her one night weeks before.
If people on the streets today had grown up watching a show like that, instead of "Rambo" and "Terminator" movies or dumbass cop shows, I think the world we live in would be a much nicer, gentler, more intelligent place. But sadly we have to live with what we've made.
Fare you well in the Bardos, David, and if you have to come back may your next life be a fruitful and loving one, eh?