My guest blogger is Mike Cain, my long time student and disciple. Mike had a deep and intimate phone connection with the late Paul Gallagher, and visited him in Asheville. Here is Mike's email intro and his blog, enjoy!
"For your consideration, here is my Paul B. Gallagher reflection.
If it is acceptable to you, I hope that you can publish it, with a brief introduction as a guest blog post.
You of all people know that my words are highly insufficient to accurately capture Paul's spirit, wisdom, and humanity.
Never-the-less, I feel your audience needs a small taste of our dear Master G!
Thank you in advance sir. I appreciate the opportunity to share. - M"
What Can You Learn From 9 Years of Conversation With a Master?
Seemingly everything, and nothing; allow me to explain…
Roughly 9 years ago Ray Hayward mentioned to me that a one Paul Gallagher of Asheville, NC wanted to formally meet me; and as I would find out later, begin a “conversation”.
Obviously I knew of a Mr. Paul Gallagher from past discussions with Sifu Hayward, and from Master T.T. Liang’s book, but I still had to ask, “THE Paul Gallagher, really?”.
Needless to say, I was both honored and intrigued to receive an invitation from such an accomplished and wise individual.
Ray fulfilled the request and made the appropriate introductions. He also provided me valuable insight and instruction on how to approach this rare and unique opportunity (thank you again sir).
The monthly and sometimes weekly phone calls between Mr. Paul Gallagher and I started with the usual “get to know you” dialog. The calls rather quickly progressed to deeper and more profound topics; with subjects that quite literally were all over the board, map and time.
Even though Mr. Gallagher approached our conversations as if we were equals, I immediately became aware that saying “Paul” or “Mr. Gallagher” was not going to work for me. Calling him “Master Paul” or “Master Gallagher” while immensely appropriate, was also too cumbersome, not to mention unacceptable to my new conversational partner. To solve the dilemma sooner than later, I presented my own unique and respectful salutation for approval… “Master G”!
Refining 9 years of profound conversation will be a long, and iterative process to be sure. But in the spirit of sharing - something very important to Master G by the way - here are a few nuggets:
It is important to state up front that very rarely were the conversations directly about martial arts. Instead, at the start of a meeting one of us would pose a leading question, or make a comment on some thing that happened to be at the forefront of our recent personal ruminations. In almost all cases, the subject(s) dealt with our respective, personal experiences, observations, and thoughts on life, and living. Sure, there were many references to tai chi concepts and related martial and spiritual arts; but these mostly served as a common foundation for understanding and confirmation.
Master G’s number one piece of advice was: “treat everyone you meet like a million bucks”.
As a recipient of this approach, I can attest to its power and effectiveness. In one of our more recent conversations, I told him this tenet should be updated to “a billion” due to inflation. Being an expert in marketing and finance, he laughed and agreed heartily!
Another profound question Master G would pose is: “who do you have to be?”
Initially, his question provoked a long and deep discussion that I am still digesting. He explained that when looking at, or interacting with someone who seems to always get the good stuff, or receive a larger share of information or insight, you should ask, “who do you have to be?” (to get and/or receive).
Given that our conversations were rarely one way or unbalanced, at some point much later, I added my own questions to Master G’s:
“Where do you have to be?”
“When do you have to be?”
After several years of fabulous and fascinating discussion, I spontaneously posed a question to Master G. that seemed to genuinely stump him.
“What is it that you know, that no one, past or present knows?”
Obviously I knew the answer, having pondered the question for many decades. I believed Master G. would immediately provide me his version of the answer.
After a pause, he said he didn’t have an answer. To this day, I am not entirely sure if I did stump him or not; alas that is the nature of conversation with Paul Gallagher!
Looking back through the slightly out of focus lens of recollection, I know that Master G taught everything he knew about life to anyone who spent more than a few hours with him. At the same time, he (purposefully) taught us nothing, knowing full well that it is up to each of us to ultimately put in the “work” to figure it out for ourselves…
For the folks that know and love Paul Gallagher, the following is not new, or surprising. Never-the-less, it must be stated:
Paul Benedict Gallagher is a treasure.
From a profoundly personal point of view, let me add:
Master G… master of the Gs
Sincerely and Respectfully,
PS. the answer is: “your own self”