Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Changing November

It's the first day of November, 2008

How time flies! In a blink of the eye we are approaching the finishing line of 2008, the second last month of the year, and the period which humanity comes to hold on her breath and welcome the final worldwide festive - Christmas. A day where everyone would greet each other with open arms and warm embrace, wishing one another the best of the person in the coming new year, with just six days short of its arrival.

November thus makes itself almost a preparatory stage for everyone to gather and pause, to collect and reshuffle, to dispose and move on. It is almost like a universal reminder to everyone living and breathing on this planet, a gentle wake-up call, of the urgency to re-collect oneself amidst the hectic and frantic schedules of returning to one's primal objective set in the beginning of the year.

It is a simple yet straightforward push in sounding us the importance of remembering what is truly important to us - a time for our inner spiritual growth - before we are lost in the endless pursuit for career calculations and material desires.

It is with this in mind that my thoughts led me to wander to the current US Presidential election, taking place three days later on 4th November, on the soil of country which expounds and exports the practice of Democracy. It is with my belief that all genuine changes, engineered by great passion and powered by strong conviction, inevitably comes to encounter greater inertia and obstacles. The resistance to change, or adopting any of it, is inherently found in every sentient and insentient being: humans take a long while to propel out of their habitual actions, while motorcars take a longer route to come to a full halt.

Bruce Lee, the world renowned martial-arts actor, was born in the month of November. When he began his learning path on Chinese traditional martial arts he realised he was facing a thousand-year-old school of conservationism, deeply rooted and rock-solid. Contrary to his vision and belief that all humans can learn the art of martial fighting, he had encountered a tidal wave of self-censoring traditions that went against his will - complacency of schools self-absorbed in their own styles and techniques, fear of the teacher imparting the entire set of knowledge to his disciples, and the arrogance of the institutions proclaiming their own styles to be the best.

In his own words, Bruce observed impartially and sharply, "...when clans are formed, the people of a clan will hold their kind of martial art as the only truth, and do not dare to reform or improve it. Thus they are confined in their own tiny little world. Their students become machines which imitate martial art forms."

This, to Bruce, was something entirely against his dream and desire - he had hoped for all martial arts practitioners in coming together, openly sharing and unreservedly exchanging, with full honesty and clear conscience. It was a principle he had lived by, and which he wished strongly others to be of so. In his own philosophical expression, Bruce said, "I have not invented a 'new style,' composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from 'this' method or 'that' method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds." True to his lifelong pursuit Bruce had earnestly sought to 'free' the minds of all practitioners from the four walls of rigidity and dogmatism, and be truly self-empowered with the true form of martial art.

It was also in this spirit that Bruce Lee went on to learn one school of art after another, one style after another, and one technique after another. From the Southeast Asian art of Silat to Western boxing and fencing, he studied intensively and deeply. From this single-mindedly desire, and at the young age of 27, his lifelong pursuit for an integrative system, 'Jeet Kune Do' was founded. It was, in a nutshell, an art which broke down all confining walls of rigid traditions and barriers of conservative beliefs, and of which successfully integrated all styles as well as bringing all strengths together.

While many in the world revered Bruce Lee as a great martial art actor, he was in the truest sense, one who stood by his conviction and belief in tearing down the obstacles, one by one, for learning the martial arts, and pushing wide the centuries-old rusted doors in allowing every commoner in the street to enter. He had truly wanted everyone to be strong and able.

In this sense, what Bruce had done is echoed by the current US presidential candidate Barack Obama. Experiencing first-hand the death of his mother and raised by his white grandmother, rising from this humble background, he stood up for the people of America and more importantly, for all regardless of colour or religion. Cherishing the dream of inroducing genuine changes to America, he was ridiculed for being young and inexperienced, and was targeted once and again for being a threat to the survival. To those who had their minds closed and long shut off, youths who hold on to a burning heart and passionate desire are certainly threats to the already-established and deeply rooted traditions and cultures, something these people are comfortably relying on to live their lives by. They would in all aspects choose not to disturb the structures and paradigms; anyone doing so would be regarded as anti establishment and social threat.

Both Bruce and Obama suffered unfounded criticisms. For Bruce he was surrounded by leaders of the various schools, who regarded his new-found style as 'unorthodox' and against traditional foundations. For Obama, he was attacked for his racial lineage to a white grandmother. Throughout the tunnels of time, it had been evidently recorded that great persons of passion, whenever they stood up for great causes, would invite unfounded citicisms and ungrounded lies. Such are the fundamentals lurking in the lives of those who delivered the attacks, resorting to low-handed tactics and viscious, cunning devices with the sole objective of bringing these men of courage down.

Those in power fear those whom are passionate; those who control are wary of those who inspire, while those grounded on traditions detest those who speak of changes. In all ages, rulers seek to divide and hurt while genuine leaders forge to unite and heal. It has been so, and shall still so.

This post has been written over a span of three days. As I approached the end of this post, my laptop's clock rests on 3rd Nov 2008, 2310 hrs. The time has come for America, on the other side of this beautiful planet, to make a choice. Would they choose change over tradition, passion over fear, unity over division, self-reliance over hard-empowerment, and youthfulness over experience? Or would they decide on the contrary?

History shall be written today, while I believed change is already on the way.