But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.” -Lao Tsu “You must be shapeless, formless, like water… Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.” -Bruce Lee
My thanks to Kempo student and dojo mom Mary Dissette for bringing to my attention this article about a new volume of writings from one of my favorite martial artists/philosophers, Bruce Lee.
The article makes much of what led Lee to his now-famous “become like water” saying. It’s interesting—and kind of comforting—to me that Lee stumbled upon this image during a time of frustration. It’s easy to imagine that history’s more enlightened minds were always that way, that their inner peace and formidable wisdom was always there. That one of the greatest martial artists of his time would be out on a boat trying to clear his mind, and get so frustrated that he would punch the water, makes him more relatable to all of us.
In my own case, the question I’ve been wrestling with is finding some balance between my desire to always be at peace with what life brings my way, and my belief that we should all strive to find ways to make ourselves, our lives and our communities better. I think perhaps that balance lies in being “like water.”
Is there any other element that can, at different times, evoke both tranquility and power the way water can? Water is an agent of change, a carver of canyons, a medium on which mankind has traveled the world. Yet water can also be still and smooth as glass.
I’m sure I’m still going to wrestle with knowing when is the time to carve canyons and when is the time to just sit. That’s a wisdom we all pray for (the Serenity Prayer, anyone?). But knowing that by being like water I can do both is a good start.