Thank you, Kwai Chang Caine

This may sound a little strange to some of you, but I am truly saddened by the passing of David Carradine.  No, I’m not morning the lost of a great action figure like some, nor did I think of him as a role model the way he is being portrayed by others.  And yet, truth be told, without him my life might have taken a very different turn.

I was 18 when Kung Fu came to television. Carradine’s charater Kwai Chang Caine fasinated me. The juxtaposition of passive demeaner and explosions of violence was something I had never considered.

At the time I was part of a Christian High school group; I didn’t really believe, I was just madly in lust with one of the female members of the group.  Kwai Chang Caine however, caused me to seriously examine the question of spirituality.  I sought out instruction in Eastern philosophy and eventually wound up learning from a Buddist instructor at the same time that I was attending a Baptist congregation.  He often commented on the teachings of Jesus and thought that the Jewish rabbi must have been exposed to Buddist teachings at some point.

His take on Jesus’ teaching was, however, somewhat different from what I was learning in the Baptist church. When I would tell him what my pastor had told me a passage meant he would often respond with, “Really? But that’s not what He said.” It was this exposure to non-Christian examination of scripture that caused me to take a serious personal look at the Bible rather than just accepting what I was told it meant.

Eventually both the girl and the Buddist moved out of my life – but Jesus remained. And so did a desire to fully understand the context of what Jesus was saying.  All of which has, of course, contributed to who I am today.

Even though he played a relatively small role in my spiritual development, I followed Carradines career with more than a passing intertest. It is said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and Kwai Chang Caine was the motivation for that first step. And so I find myself feeling a small measure of indebtedness to the character and the  actor.

When I learned of his death however, it was not any of the King Fu scenes that came to mind.  (No I don’t buy the suicide angle, neither do I think the asian Mafia had him killed.) No, my favorite Carradine moment will always be the Superman speech from Kill Bill 2. It’s a great commentary on the nature of masks and identity.  I think it stuck in my mind because of the fact that Superman is one of the most widely distributed archetypes of Christ, which puts an interesting slant on the commentary.

(For the more sensitive among you – brief bad language advisory.)

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