Several times recently, a question has come up in conversation. Who would you want to meet if you could meet anyone, living or dead, fictional or real?
I would want to meet Bruce Lee. Yes, because of his legendary martial arts skills, but not only because of that.
Bruce Lee embodied, literally, the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching. He revolutionized martial arts with an approach described as the way of no way. He believed that the various styles of martial arts limited one’s abilities by requiring adherence to rigid forms and techniques. He dropped the distinctions and integrated all styles to be responsive in the moment.
His personal philosophy paralleled his martial arts philosophy. “You can’t organize truth. That’s like putting water in wrapping paper and trying to shape it.” Be water, my friend.” He was educated and intelligent, a deep thinker who wrote and spoke eloquently about a way of life that focused on inner awareness and enlightenment.
His personal life was a profile of the American way. Unlike most martial arts teachers of that time, he did not restrict his students to his own ethnic group. In spite of vigorous opposition, he opened his classes to anyone who wanted to come, regardless of race or gender. He married a white woman at a time when interracial marriages were rare and even dangerous.
But one of the ways he most influenced my life might not have really been part of his life at all. In "Dragon," a movie about his life, there is a theme that resonated in my soul. A demon appeared to him at various times, as if in a dream or vision. Each time, he was terrified and helpless. When he spoke to his teacher about it, the teacher explained that the demon was his father’s demon, passed down to him. The teacher said that he would have to fight the demon. When Bruce protested, the teacher stated, “You will fight the demon to save your son.” In the last encounter, Bruce saw his son threatened by the demon and found the courage and strength to fight and vanquish it.
I believe that many of us carry the “demons” of our parents, as they did for theirs. We pass these on to our children, often unknowingly, certainly unintentionally. By the time I saw this movie, I was aware of certain things in my own life that I recognized as issues my mother struggled with. I’m guessing her mother did, too. Perhaps these issues stretched back for generations, being passed down from mother to daughter.
I began to see that at some level I was already starting to pass my inherited demons on to my daughter, in spite of my determination not to. The only way to prevent it, I finally acknowledged, was for me to deal with the issues in my own life. There was no other way to protect my children.
That demon theme in "Dragon" might have been a fictionalized addition to Bruce Lee’s biography, but it had a very real impact on me. Watching the story made me realize that, like Bruce Lee in the movie, I would have to fight. What I had up till then been unwilling to do on my own behalf, I was determined to do for my children. The legacy was going to stop with me.
The changes in my life that led to the "10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place" have their roots partly in the story of Bruce Lee, at least as it was told in the movie. If I could meet anyone, he is the person I would want to meet.
What about you? Who would you meet if you could?