This statement by Bruce Lee, "be water my friend", came across my path about a month ago as a clip in some sort of inspirational montage. I had been puzzling about what the statement meant (as foolish as that might sound to some) at the moment I looked up and saw the photo of Mr. Lee with the quote in the kitchen of our rented flat in Berlin two weeks ago. Freaked me out for a second but water keeps flowing - so I let life move on, meaning I went back to thinking "whoa! That's crazy! What does this mean?" In the midst of my mental analysis I was impressed by the a different type of thought the same way you hear the bass come in on a song, and it was this - being does not involve thinking.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Be Water My Friend
Back stateside work resumed thrusting me into a situation that would challenge me and the concept of being like water. I have been worked by the production / entertainment industry for over seven years and it has illuminated many things. I say "I've been worked by..." because that's what work is - transformation. When you are playing you are creating with the flow of life. Work on the other hand says "this isn't the way I want it to be so I'm making some modifications". We "work a material, the soil, etc" but we "play" a musical instrument. Film production is an amalgamation of many strange, socially awkward people who's daily interactions are like gargling with hydrochloric acid. I'm about as normal as I can get in my reality which means I'm one of those many weirdos trudging around a film set. A saving grace of the industry (for many people) is that every project has an end date giving you the pressure relief valve of "I only have to put up with #jackass for x more days". The second saving grace of the film business and life in general is that every day ends eventually as well. When you are stuck "on set" for a number of hours to be determined by whoever is running the asylum (ultimately the UPM - the individual with a tight grip on the money supply) it can feel a bit like being a well paid prisoner.
Years ago when I told a sound mixer that I wanted to get into the film business he said I should buy a short book he wrote on the topic. It was called something like "So You Want to Work in the Film Business???" and told me all the things I could understand but not comprehend until I actually experienced it myself. Thinking back on the book during this week of work I had a good laugh at my self - I had been informed but I couldn't grasp what it meant because I had an agenda which skews everything. What was so stressful about this week of work? For starters, I worked for a new department head - one with a resume that includes some of the biggest movies of all time. He's actually a very nice, chill man but the dynamics on the production were rattling everyone and I came in on what was described by one of the core guys as "the most I've ever seen our boss upset". Thankfully there has been no screaming in my department but the air is filled with tension (and atmospheric smoke) so thick you could cut it with a 4 x 4 solid (film joke). Nothing is ever right or fast enough for someone. You are constantly being shushed all day by the PAs (little minions of the AD department) and last but certainly not least, our set was mostly on the top floor of an old house pumped to the gills with so much smoke it looked like a Cypress Hill concert along with about 25 bodies and equipment shoved in whatever nook and cranny we could find. You're tripping over each other all day, going from sweating as all the bodies and lights heat up the space while the AC is off for sound and then back to freezing when they crank it back up during the scene changes / setups.
Three days in I was ready to quit but had promised my buddy that I would be there for two weeks and didn't want to leave him hanging. Gritting my teeth and reaching for the "only two weeks of this" lever, I was again impressed upon by a different tone of thought reminding that this was how you learn to be water. Serendipitously, on Thursday, youtube suggested a documentary of sorts about water with research into a slew of facts that were mind blowing. For the sake of brevity I'll only touch on one: the ability to concentrate flow velocity in the center of a body (river, stream, creek, etc) by working with the water instead of trying to block it completely with a damn, a sluice, what have you. By creating a path of less resistance you tap the energy of what is already there by strategic placement of your own. Several martial arts disciplines are primarily defensive, that is to say non-aggressive. They teach how you use the energy of what is coming at you to your own advantage. Perhaps this is why Bruce Lee understood water.
We are born a block of code. A story of who and what we are supposed to be. Life comes rushing along and begins to remove bits of that granite block we consider to be "I" and "Other" mixing them together and carrying it off to be used elsewhere. Flow constantly shapes it's environment - it is the natural impermanence of eternity. An hour before watching the youtube video I had a mental picture of the abrasiveness of life's situations shaping me like the blows from a chisel on a hunk of marble liberating the figure inside. We suffer because we try to hold onto a shape slapping concrete over the chunks being taken off, adding a little barbed wire into it so no one might be foolish enough to try and liberate that part of you again. Time flows through us and our perception of time is a completely relative experience. It only appears to be synchronized because there is a greater system outside of ours which can be referenced and compared.
You are your awareness not what you are aware of. All the data that enters your sensory organs aka your entire body, is just that data - information. The universe is purely information. Information which is then perceived and judged a certain way by each individual observer. Constant judgement requires an exhausting amount of energy so our brains compress the informational flow in a very binary sense. When something new enters our awareness we devote more focus on it (which equates to perception of time) until a determination is made of safe / unsafe. Once the status quo has been rectified as nothing to worry about the brain powers down a bit and says "same, same, same" to all the information coming in until there is something new. It's very similar to how computers compress information. The proportion to which you are trying to define and control things will determine the latitude of your experience. Think of it like trying to stream video. Decreasing bandwidth begins making the image blotchy because less information can be fit in the pipe per second. Judgement of the present moment is akin to throttling the flow. It causes life to appear to both whiz by retrospectively while you presently feel stuck in never ending misery.
"Radical Acceptance" of the present moment where you cease to judge things as good or bad can seem counter intuitive. Probably because it is counter intuitive to a majority of the world views. Many people perceive this state of mind as callous, uncaring, insane or potentially frighteningly unexciting. "If you don't have opinions then what's the point of life?" Cats like catnip, dogs fall asleep from it - but I have a feeling that neither of them stay up nights obsessing about it (unless you have an insomniac canine). The only reason we choke the flow of awareness is because we are trying to convince ourselves that we have control. Control is an illusion. We think that because we decide to do something, go to the convenience store for example, our feet carry us there and back with "no event" some how that "I am in control". Obviously this has varying perceived levels with those with the most resources as the ones most in control. I'm laying on my bed typing this as hurricane powered winds threaten to drop limbs on the roof. Nature is a constant reminder that we have no control but we continue to try and defy her to our own perpetual chagrin.
Instead of fighting what is flowing my motto has become "be as comfortable as possible". Instead of saying "this is a good moment" and "this is a bad moment" you appreciate them all like the notes in a song. No note lasts forever unless you continually replay it in your memory. I've found that when I say "I don't like people" I really mean "I don't like being around people because I don't think I can be myself". Our judgements add weight to either side of our existential teeter totter which we constantly strive to tip at least slightly in the "pleasure" direction. It's the attachment to these weighing stations that is part of the issue but also the placement of your fulcrum. What use is a seesaw that is out of balance? Balance is what allows play to be had. Those people who have understood how to be water are the ones who say that they don't "go to work", they feel like they are playing on a daily basis.
Be Water My Friends.