Be water, my friend
My generation would remember Bruce Lee for his martial arts skills and as an action star in movies such as Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. Forty-seven years ago, Bruce Lee began to write out his philosophies in an article called ‘In My Own Process’. Many of you may not be aware of the philosophical side of Bruce Lee. He carried energy through his thoughts and words. He addressed the core ideas of a human being comparing with water. Sadly, he passed away before he could finish the article. His daughter Shannon, who was four years old at the time, took it on her shoulders to put those philosophies in a book called ‘Be Water, My Friend’. She illuminates her father’s perspectives demonstrating how martial arts could be an excellent metaphor for personal growth.
Water is gentle and yet very powerful. Try to grab water; it runs away from you. The nature of water is finding its way, carving its paths, running past the obstacles and water becomes unstoppable. The powerful entity can take down the whole towns, and bring the public administration to the knees. The recent floods in Southern India are ample testimony to this fact.
In the book by Shanon Lee, we discover how being like water allows us to embody fluidity and naturalness in life, bringing us closer to our essential flowing nature and our ability to be powerful, self-expressed, and free. The water is a metaphor for an open mind to access and experience new things.
I had a different experience with water last week. The Cauvery water flows into our house three times a week, thanks to the ‘valve’ man from the water supply board. One day water decided not to come into our home, while my neighbours had ample supply. My brother in law started the investigation and consulted his friends to find the root cause. Everyone had his theory of why water is not flowing into the house. Detailed inspection of the delivery system did not yield any result. After prolonged deliberations, we decide to install a new pipe for the last sixty feet to deliver water into the tank. This process requires to cut the public road across and lay a new line to connect to the mainline. I do not want to discuss the nuts and bolts of the process. After a few days of hard work by a dedicated crew, the new water delivery system to our house is ready. When it is time to test the connection, one water supply operator appears in front of the house. He is curious about the meticulous work on the new link. Upon questioning, he confessed that he is responsible for stopping the line a few days earlier as there was a leak and exactly knew where he disconnected the line. He went on vacation for three days, and none of his colleagues knew what happened. All the effort would not have been necessary if any of us knew that this ‘good samaritan’ has stopped the line.
It was a classic case of failure of ‘ Group Think’. Ideas flowed like water, and everyone in the group presented a great insight into why there is no water supply. Openness and experience sharing was visible to solve the water problem. It never dawned on anyone to check whether all the stakeholders were present in the discussion. Poor ‘valve man’ was left out, resulting in a wasteful effort to build a new line.
What is the moral of the story?
Group Think is good. But not always. On some occasions, the group decision also could go southwards. It is not enough to have the qualities of water: free flow, fluidity and openness.