I lost another teacher a couple days ago. He will be mourned and missed in the same way that Sonny was and is.
These two guys were very different from each other in character and life experience, but what they did share was a certain fearlessness alongside a willingness to risk loss and failure to learn to understand the universe in which we live.
They both seemed happiest discovering new things, being surprised, and most of all being able to pass on that wonder to the next generation. They also both hated hero worship or being put on a pedestal by their students.
There really is only relationship that defines us as human beings, between each other, and with that which surrounds us. Students may be less far along the path, but the teacher does not sit above. They are not there to merely 'feed' the student, the student brings food too, for both to eat.
The circle of giving and taking goes both ways - We 'do' because we understand. We understand because we 'do'. And 'doing' takes many forms. It makes mistakes, it misjudges, it can be crazy lucky, and very occasionally it can be true and good and perfect.
I have written before about Sonny, about his darkness, his temper, his mistrust. About how I believe it is because of these elements of his personality that are considered 'negatives' by many, that he was the truly remarkable man that he was. How these struggles made him more insightful, about people, and about himself. Not in an angst-y adolescent way, or with any great fanfare of overcoming trial and tribulation to a final happy ending, but as an adult. Accepting one's limitations and the consequences of one's choices is the best way to truly have compassion for others.
Liu Ming was far from perfect. He had within him a power and temper that belied his humble and cultured nature. He was indeed generous, funny, kind, and giving, alongside being considered what I would call 'enlightened' (you can tell people that are because of the mirth they radiate). He was precise, an aesthete, and learned in the arts and wisdom sciences of ancient history. He was also willing to voice his anger, piss people off, put himself in danger, get thrown out of school, and even get officially cursed (at least that's how the story goes).
So make no mistake, the earth from which the 'good' qualities grew had some dark depths. The pendulum does not only swing one way, and neither should it do so.
I hope all the hagiographers out there are taking note.