“... it doesn't take much courage to fight when you still believe you can win. What takes real courage is to keep fighting when all hope is gone,” (Polly 168)
I once had a childhood dream and like most childhood dreams, it was impossible to reach. I wanted to be a doctor who would go to other worlds with space explorers to keep them healthy. Now that I look back on it, I understand how unreachable of a dream that was. Becoming a doctor is a lot of work and with all the rigorous training that astronauts go through just to go into space, let alone to a new planet, I now know that I am not cut out for that. In American Shaolin the author, Matthew Polly, had the dream of becoming a high-flying kung fu master.
Polly had that dream since he was a child watching old kung fu movies and tv shows. Even as he grew up and began to realize that his dream would be way harder to actually achieve than he originally thought, he kept right on with that dream, by making a list of things about himself he wanted to change. In what I have read so far, Polly has only scratched two things off of his list. The first thing he fixed on his list was that he was ignorant. In order to do this, Polly found every book he could on test taking and learning in general so that he could get accepted to an ivy league school and no longer be ignorant. (14). This showed early on that Polly was willing to go the extra mile in order to work towards fulfilling his dreams and it definitely shows later in the book.
All that work amounted to something, because Polly got accepted to Princeton. There, he took many classes about the study of Chinese culture in order to help keep his dream alive. His obsession with eastern culture, help him find his favorite philosopher, Chang-tzu. Polly liked him because of the way he looked at religion with a sense of humor and went along with how the world was (15). Through Princeton, Polly was able to further fuel his dream, because one of the professors who taught Mandarin, learned of his dream and told him that he should look towards fulfilling it. That was when Polly decided to put his dreams into actions. He promptly dropped out of college, returned home to tell his parents (who didn’t approve in the slightest), and finally boarded the plane bound for china (34). This once again showed that Polly had the drive and determination to follow his dream even in the face of adversity.
Polly was finally able to go to the place where all his dreams had been made from, China. When he got there, it was completely different than what he thought it would be. What he thought would be a collection of traditional oriental villages, turned out to be sprawling, overpopulated metropolises. He was also shocked when he realized how many different dialects of Chinese there were and how all of them were only somewhat similar to the Mandarin he learned at Princeton (47). A final shock that almost sent him back home was when he asked people about the Shaolin Temple, they a said it had been destroyed. Polly then began to panic as his entire world began to crumble around him and all of his hopes and dreams began to vanish. As he was freaking out, a group of elderly people gathered around him to see why a foreigner was having a panic attack. Whilst explain what was wrong, one elderly woman told him that the Shaolin Temple was still up and running. Polly’s dream was reignited and he continued his journey to the shaolin temple.
When Polly finally got to the Shaolin Temple, what he found was less than what he expected. The Shaolin Temple had become more of a martial arts school than a temple were monks meditated for days on end and had little interaction with the outside world. It was quite the opposite, the temple was constantly filled with tourists and monks that don’t meditate (65). After hours of searching, he found the “owners” of the Shaolin Temple and was able to follow his dreams of becoming a shaolin monk.
When I got to highschool, I had a new dream to become an Information Technology specialist. So far, this has been my most feasible dream yet and I actually can do this too. When Polly talked about how his dream had been to be a kung fu master, I thought that there was no way that an American could be allowed to become a shaolin monk and then come back to America. What I have read so far has been very inspiring to see someone actually follow their lifelong dream and accomplish it.