When I first encountered Bruce Lee’s ‘Be Water’ philosophy circa 2002-2003, the internet was just beginning to buzz. Pre-social media times of course, (younger generation fathom a world without smart phones and WiFi). I was clowning Bruce Lee’s accent the whole time listening to the interview cos you know… what’s funnier than English spoken in a Chinese accent? To a Non-Chinese, Cantonese speaking 15 year old brown boy like me, it was ridiculously funny. Oblivious to Lee’s message of course, more than a decade later I stumble on the Bruce Lee interview again, this time round it was an amazing trip.
Listening to the interview in 2015 (without the giggles, mind you), it blew my mind. Bruce Lee’s message:
‘To be formless, like water. Water can flow or it can crash. You put water into the cup it becomes the cup, you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot, be water my friend ;)’
This blew me the frruck away this time. It was so simple, how could I not recognize that the human body is largely water, I must be able to form into any situation with the right mindset. What about all that stuff about the beautiful things sound waves do to water? if I am water, there must be a sort of fluidity of influence caused by my thoughts alone? Bruce Lee fascinates me because he mastered the physical world without question, yet, here was a guy who mastered the symbolic world as well; I would have to whack my head to find other similar intellectuals like him (Genghis Khan??)
Bruce Lee suffered a well documented reoccurring back injury that bothered him throughout his life (sorta like Ronaldo with his knee), until one day he aggravated it so much that he was to be bed ridden for six months. While Lee was unable to train his physical body, he became restless from the inaction that he set upon himself to train the biggest muscle in his body, the FACE! (It’s Always Sunny pun) nah, his brain. He studied like his livelihood depended on it (docs told Lee he may not be able to kick again). Lee hit the books hard. Studying motivational psychology, philosophy, metaphysics, relgious texts, Alan Watts, Krishnamurti, Lao Tzu … etc dude was hitting them books hard! Lee motivated himself to understand the symbolic universe on top of his knowledge of the physical world which he was familiar and dominant in. Bruce was no average Joe.
During the bed ridden period Lee had his enlightenment and so to speak ‘awakening’. He saw through the matrix and decided to change the mold of his stereotype as the kung fu man from China in Hollywood, to utilize his influence in a more positive way. He started promoting Taoism and Oriental philosophies, in his movies and to his peers in his personal life. Lee started pointing out the similarities in western and eastern philosophies and the universal truths that ought to unite humans, not divide them. He even stated after this period that he ‘did not believe in different ways of fighting anymore; for example, the English way of fighting or the Chinese way of fighting. It was all the Human way of fighting to him now’.
After recovering from the injury Lee didn’t take purely action roles any more, (Hollywood back then probably didn’t want Bruce Lee to be anything more than a stereotype. God forbid an intellectually influential person on the scene, he already befriended many elite Hollywood influencers like Steve McQueen, James Coburn…etc).
Lee started to spread positivism like most ‘awaken’ people do. It is people like Lee who create that spark in society that would bring about something of a positive changing revolution. (Funny how influential figures who champion for positive change usually get robbed from earth early, Tupac, JFK, MLK, Malcolm X, Benazir Bhutto, River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, Mike Jackson,… who else?)
What grabbed me via Lee this time round was the whole linearity & cyclical debate. I acknowledged that I myself had been conditioned to operate on a linear mode of thinking. So in mid 2014 I set upon the task to adapt to a more cyclical mode of thinking, and perhaps to favour it. Hearing Bruce Lee talk again reminded me that I never really embraced the non-linear style of thought growing up. Which led me to ponder, is life more likely to be a bunch of linear chronological events? Or is it a cyclical mess?
But then again did I really have a choice?
I feel IF the population of earth adjusts to a cyclical thought pattern over the linear pattern (which is drilled into folks all over the common wealth countries during the education years) Earth would be a lot more friendly and pleasant place to be in. Cyclical thought is usually at odds with Corporate thought or philosophies which are largely chronological and linear. Linear thought encourages the individual growing up to embrace concepts like atheism, skepticism, scientism more readily at the expense of Spirituality & Religion. Yet, the elite of the world believe in spirituality, isnt that some sort of funny circle? Hell, most of them believe in occult magick. Yet ask an average Joe and he will tell you religion, spirituality and magick is bollocks (thanks to corporate media, who runs it though?).
The first intellectual that fascinated me was Leo Da Vinci during my first years at uni. I would hand copy some of his fables and maxims into the bottom of my notebooks. He was extraordinarily ahead of his time, in some manner like Bruce Lee. I started noticing a pattern that most people with transcending views were ahead of their contemporary’s time. Einstein, Freud, Jung, Nietzsche, Arsistotle, Plato, James Joyce, Marshal McLuhan, Sartre, Foucault, Lacan, Tesla list is near endless. Most of their contemporaries didn’t understand them, laughed at them (like me laughing at Bruce Lee’s accent). Because of their unusual and un-graspable philosophies, these figures were seen to be rather eccentric to their contemporaries, which just makes me think change can only come about if you can convince your contemporaries; otherwise they are just good ideas that never really manifest … perhaps someone in position of influence should carry them out?
I find it important to look back at some of the influential figures who were fortunate enough to leave behind a legacy for us to study from. As I am approaching a wordcount, I am going to sign off with quotes from Marshal McLuhan from the audio version of The Medium Is The Massage (which illustrates well how the linear modes of thinking have been subconsciously influencing us):
“Every new technology creates a new environment in which men live and work. Printing extended the emphasis upon linearity. It fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a process of specialism and of detachment. A habit of thinking in bits and parts, and step by step. The technology of the alphabet and of moveable type, printing, predisposed us to think and act in certain ways. The alphabet is a construct of fragmented bits and parts which have no semantic meaning in themselves, and which must be strung together in a line, bead-like, and in a prescribed order. Its use fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms—particularly in terms of a space and of a time that are uniform, c,o,n,t,i,n,u,o,u,s and c-o-n-n-e-c-t-e-d. Printing completely changed everything. It changed what men thought of themselves, how they behaved towards each other, it changed systems of government. And so on and so on and so on. — Printing technology confirmed and extended the new visual stress. It provided the first uniformly repeatable commodity, the first assembly line—mass production. It created the portable book, which men could read in privacy and in isolation from others. Man could now inspire—and conspire.”