Maimonides and Bruce Lee

What links the 12th Century mystic/philosopher/physician with the 20th Century martial artist/philosopher/actor?

They are joined through their philosophical interpretation of improvement, learning and growth.

This all started with me writing about a recent incident at work and was followed by a discussion on quality improvement and learning.

If you step sideways, you can connect the ideas behind ‘Teach thy tongue to say I do not know,’ and Bruce Lee’s philosophical tale.

As to who originated the story I don’t know, this is the essence:

Enthusiastic student, after travelling for many years finally reaches the Master’s house hidden in the depths of a forest.

‘Master… at last I have found you – how wonderful!’ He proclaims, ‘I have been searching for you for such a long time… Please teach me your ways.’

And so, Master starts to explain his philosophy.

Before he is able to complete even the first sentence the student interrupts, ‘But, Master, I have been taught like this,’ or, ‘Isn’t it easier if we…’

After some time, the Master becomes exasperated. He thinks to himself – this guy is so smart, it seems he want to teach me!

The Master then calls for tea.

The student, still full of energy and eagerness, happily accepts; he holds-out the cup and the Master pours the fresh brew.

He pours and fills the cup and continues pouring. The tea overflows. Yet, he keeps pouring.

‘Master – the cup is full! Stop!’

The Master responds, ‘The value of the cup is its emptiness, you cannot learn unless you also become empty.’

And so, the connection.

It is not enough to ask the question. We must also be responsive to the answer.

Don’t just arrive at the class – listen.

The noise and mess of our pasts can drown any sound of tomorrow.

I do not know.

My cup is empty.

Let us break bread tonight.

mountains and water

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