This morning I couldn't resist -- I jumped ahead and read the final chapter in Daniele Bolelli's "On the Warrior's Path: Philosophy, Fighting, and Martial Arts Mythology." It's called "Epistemological Anarchism, The Philosophy of Jeet Kune Do."
I've been arguing that philosophical Taoism (as contrasted with its religious variety) isn't metaphysical or other-worldly, but instead is focused on the art of earthly living. Bolelli's description of Lee's Taoist leanings fits with my conception of Taoism.
Bolelli notes that Lee was at odds with much of Chinese culture, since religious Buddhism and Taoism, plus the rigid moral structures of Confucianism, don't fit with the iconoclastic Jeet Kune Do philosophy.
...By rejecting Confucianism and choosing to embrace the antiauthoritarian viewpoint of philosophical Taoism, Lee allied himself with the fringe-dwellers, the outcasts, the mavericks, the philosophical outlaws, the misfits of Chinese culture.
Ooh! Count me in! Those are my sorts of people. Following my sort of philosophy.
The philosophical side of martial arts is near to my heart, because I spent nine years studying traditional Shotokan karate -- an exemplar of a Confucian style (though Shotokan is rooted in Japanese culture).
About the time my churchlessness started to flower, I got disenchanted with the rigidity of Shotokan karate. I shifted to a mixed martial arts style and enjoyed the much looser dojo atmosphere (which included a photo of Bruce Lee on a wall).
After three-plus years of that, I've been Tai Chi'ing it for about five years (yes, Tai Chi is a martial art; even more, my instructor likes to say that it is the foundation of the martial arts).
So my evolution has been in the direction of Bruce Lee's Taoist Jeet Kune Do, whose basic precepts are "using no way as way" and "having no limitation as limitation." Lee encouraged his students to question everything and find out for themselves what works, and what doesn't.
Good advice. I've stopped meditating the way I was taught in my true believing phase, because I didn't feel that it was doing for me what I wanted. Now I'm much more eclectic.
Just as Lee used "whatever works" as his guiding philosophy, I don't feel that I need to follow any set of moral, ethical, or meditative dogmas. I'm still a vegetarian, but I drink a glass of red wine most evenings. I still meditate every morning, but I vary between mantra and mantra-less awareness, and worry a lot less about how much time I spend on my cushion.
Bolelli shares some good Bruce Lee quotations:
True observation begins when one sheds set patterns, and true freedom of expression occurs when one is beyond systems.
Knowledge is fixed in time, whereas, knowing is continual. Knowledge comes from a source, from accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement.
Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none and, likewise, uses any techniques or means which serve its ends.
More excellent Taoist advice. Lee makes the same point that I've been arguing in the above-mentioned comment conversations:
Philosophical Taoism's embrace of every way, depending on the circumstances, doesn't make this philosophy a defined belief system. Rather, it is the antithesis of religious, moralistic, or ethical dogmatism.
Bolellis says that Lee gave full power back to the individual through this set of "using no way as the way" aphorisms:
2. Absorb what is useful.
3. Reject what is useless.
4. Add what is specifically your own.
Sure sounds good for a churchless philosophy of life.
(For more about Bruce Lee's philosophy, check out my "Kung Fu meditating" post.)