Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bruce Lee's pointing finger

When I was living with the Thalmann family in Fribourg, Switzerland during my junior year in college (1989-90), I would often watch movies from the Thalmann kids' vast collection of videos, many of which were foreign films dubbed in French. One such movie was "Opération Dragon," known to us Amurricans as "Enter the Dragon," which is probably Bruce Lee's most famous film.

Toward the beginning of the movie, Bruce Lee is found training a Shaolin adept (interesting that none of them had shaved heads). He asks the adept to try to kick him; the adept fails until Bruce explains that he should not so much think as feel ("I said emotional content-- not anger!"). When a satisfactory kick is produced, Bruce goes on to explain the proper mindset using the classic Zen metaphor: "It is like a finger pointing to the moon." The adept ends up staring at Bruce's finger. I can no longer remember exactly how the line goes in English, but in French, Bruce smacks the adept over the head and says:

"Ne concentre pas ton attention sur le doigt. Sinon tu passeras à côté de toute la splendeur céleste!"

(NB: I think the English line is, "Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory!")

It's a beautiful day for a wedding, so I'll be attending one this afternoon. My laundry is percolating right now; when that's finished, I'll be heading to the office to work on a pile of end-of-semester preparations. At 3:30pm, a coworker will be swooping by to drive us to Kangnam.

Whether it's day or night for you right now, whether the day is mild or stormy, hot or cold, bone-dry or oppressively humid, may you never concentrate on the finger lest you miss toute la splendeur céleste.


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