Bruce Lee and when NOT to be like water

 

At the end of April, I posted my favorite Bruce Lee quote. Well, in the past two months, a very popular BMW commercial has featured another Bruce Lee quote; this one about water. In context, Bruce Lee talks about how his variation of martial arts (Jeet Kune Do) strives to be like water, for it is both shapelessness and is all powerful. Water has the dual quality of being completely passive, always finding the path of least resistence, and yet water also has the immense force to destroy anything in its way. Unfotunately, this commercial gets it all wrong. It is like Chevy selling a car called the “Nova” or “no va” (in Spanish meaning “doesn’t go”).

Why would you tell car buyers that they should “crash” like water? while Bruce says that water’s formlessness is what makes is become the tea pot, the commercial tells us not to “adapt” to the highway (in other words, not be formless). But then it tells us to become the highway. So, if you are water and are not taking its formless path, then you do not adapt to the highway but overpower it. In other words, you crash. Right? Water can either flow or crash. You adapt or you destroy. So, we should drive BMWs and crash. Hmm? It seems to me like a huge marketing blunder.

Interestingly enough, over the past few months I have revisited some of my most influential childhood heros through watching their interviews, and both listening to Bob Marley and even Bruce Lee have left me somewhat disappointed. Or rather, the visit back to the past has been somewhat anti-climatic. As a 12 and 13 year old, I had all of Bruce Lee’s movies memorized literally, and had even read his book “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do.” When I hear Bruce Lee now that I am an adult, he seems more ambitious (almost angry) and in need of proving himself to the world than his own Toaist teachings would reflect. He even sounds antiquated like he is ready to yell out “groovy” at any moment. But, what do I know? I suppose the lesson that I have learned is that I sure was a strange kid.

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