Relationships, Isolation and Balance

January 6, 2011 · 7 comments

In the early pages of The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee’s notes are quoted thus:

Understanding oneself happens through a process of relationships and not through isolation.

While I see some truth in that, I think I also need a balance of relationships and isolation.  Solitude is really what I mean:  I need times of solitude.  I never got why Superman needed a Fortress of Solitude, but something really clicked for me this morning:  remember the part in the most recent “gritty reboot” movie, where Superman takes Lois way up into the stratosphere and they can hear all the voices of the world crying for help and whatnot?  All of a sudden, the whole Fortress of Solitude thing really made sense:  it’s a place he can go where he can enjoy the silence – regroup, consolidate, become one with himself again.  Then he’s able to go back out and face the help-crying voices again.

I had a busy day yesterday, and some of that busy-ness overlapped the times during the day I routinely have to myself.  I met a mentor for lunch; normally I sit by myself in the cafeteria and read while I eat.  I had to run home to let Christine and the cat into my apartment because the door I had left open for the PSE&G guy was closed by said guy; I had just sat down to eat dinner and read at Whole Foods.  So I had to take my dinner to my next appointment and wolf it down there.  While I was eating, a friend of mine was leaning over into my face/food space, wondering what I was eating.  She got too close and I snapped at her like a starved dog, “get the fuck away from my food, woman.”  Whoa.  I apologized quickly, but the damage was done.

As I’m sure you know all too well, dear reader, I’ve been alone for quite some time now.  I know that I’ve come to enjoy it, but I what I did not realize (at least not so overtly) until last night was that I’ve come to depend upon solitude.  I need it.  If I don’t have at least short periods of being alone with myself, time to collect and regroup, I may as well be carrying kryptonite around in my pocket. 

I think it may be time for some sort of retreat for me.  Solo hiking or getting engrossed in a novel for a few hours are usually my preferred means of solitude:  maybe I’ll take a day off work next week and burn some miles and climb some mountains by myself.  This weekend is already booked with group hikes.

So yeah: 

Dear Bruce Lee,

Don’t go forgetting about balance.  It’s the yin that defines the yang – the solitude that defines the isolation. 

See also melissa’s Tao Te Ching reference in her comment to yesterday’s post.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Melita January 6, 2011 at 19:11

You’re so good at helping others; glad to hear that you’re
going to take some time for yourself. After all, what good is a
Fortress of Solitude if you never get to spend any time there? P.S.
Feel free to skip this Saturday and take some solo time if you


Katie January 6, 2011 at 22:39

It is vital to honor your relationship with yourself. You need to be able to slow down and feel your connection to the world around you and to the deepest parts of yourself before you can offer yourself to others.


Fat Vegan January 6, 2011 at 23:12

Yup I would stay away from Bruce Lee on this one I dont go
to Bruce Lee for meditation advice the same way I wouldnt go to
Ghandi for martial arts advice. And I dont know what Debbie is
talking about have your isolation time when your alone no need to
cancel hiking jk take all the time you need brotha


Lauren January 6, 2011 at 23:30

Good call on this one. The relationship to others is just half of the story – others are the yin by which our yang is defined. At the same time, solitude is where we actually come to understand all of that stuff. To say something only happens through one side of the equation seems not so Tao to me.

Glad to hear you are taking time for yourself. Find center. And thanks for the reminder that I need to do the same before moving into a very busy time.


Lauren January 6, 2011 at 23:31

And I just noticed I am in your tag cloud. Awesome.


your sacred inner snowshoer January 7, 2011 at 07:20

comments as good as the OP


Bruce Lee January 7, 2011 at 10:45

泰德你這麼聰明。現在搶卵石從我手裡蝗蟲 /


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