Sometimes you meet people that really make a difference in who you are and how you look at the world. Ruby Olar was one of those people. His list of accomplishments is long, but perhaps the thing that affected me the most was that Ruby Olar was Ruby Olar. There is nobody else that will ever be like him, a devout Jew and Tai Chi Master and Professional Ballroom Dancer and professor at (baptist) Baylor University.
I was blessed to take dance lessons from Ruby through the Baylor Social Dance Society for the first three years of my undergraduate degree, and just recently to be a student in his Fall 2006 Tai Chi class. He was the kind of dancer that could make me, an off balance sophomore, pass through some of the more complicated waltz or foxtrot or cha-cha steps like I knew what I was doing - the kind of teacher that would take hold of my belt loops and send me flying back and forth until I really *FELT* rise and fall, and sway, and waltz suddenly made sense. And when it came to Tai Chi, Ruby lived it. Each day he would take the time to explain a little bit of Lao Tzu or Confucious - looking at us mischeviously and asking "And so the teacher asks the students: What does this mean?" and truly wanting to know what we thought. I learned more about myself than I did about Tai Chi in his class, and I learned a good bit of Tai Chi too.
Ruby was passionate about teaching - and he taught students, not Tai Chi or dance. His love of life and G_d and his students shone in everything that he did. The lessons that we learned from him will not fade away, even if someday we find that we can't remember exactly how to Part the Horse's Mane or Wave Hands Like Clouds. Yesterday when I did form, though, I found that his memory will indeed live forever - as the small voice saying "in, out; shift, twist" and in the way I look at the world. Thank you, Ruby, for all that you meant to me and all of your students - and thank you, Olar family, and especially his beloved wife Sherry (of whom he spoke often, and for whom his love was immediately obvious) for sharing him with us. I hope someday that I can be as in tune with myself and the world and G_d as he was.
Flow like a River; Still as a Mountain
Ruby was found dead in his classroom (he was "meditating" - also known as sweeping the dojo floors) of apparently natural causes on Dec 14th 2006 at the age of 59. Because I was graduating, I had the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you, though I wish very much that it had not been this kind of goodbye. His memorial service was Wednesday, Dec. 20 (though I did not find out about it until today, and so was unable to attend) Ruby was the second mentor and martial arts instructor that I have had the fortune to study under. Sensei James Melton, from whom I learned a lot about life and Shotokan Karate, passed away suddenly in the summer of 2005 from cancer. I found at the time that I could not write a memory for him, and only wrote a little about his passing and memorial service that, in retrospect, does not do him justice. I'm not sure if this is worth putting out there, but I need to say it, at least for my own sake.