Yesterday I wrote an article about lessons expatriates can learn from Bruce Lee. The background behind that article is that I came across Bruce Lee’s Biography Artist of Life and I became fascinated by how he integrated the philosophies of his father’s home Hong Kong, and the country in which he grew up (United States).
While reading his biography I also became fascinated to see how much of the Chinese philosophy of life, particularly Taoism, are grounded in the practice of Kung Fu. In the book, Lee quotes Lao-tzu as saying that “only the man eternally free from passion can contemplate its spiritual existence. He who is clogged by desires can see no more than its outer form”.
Practitioners of Kung Fu will strive to reach such a state of being free from passion, and the process of mastering the art involves being able to reach such a a state.
It is my personal belief that in the same way in which Kung Fu and the philosophies that accompany the art are gifts that the Chinese culture has brought to the world, every culture in the world has produced something beautiful that is worthwhile of learning.
Iran, a country of astonishingly beautiful poetry, has so much to teach us about leadership and self discovery. Rumi, one of it’s most famous poets, wrote: “Be like melting snow – wash yourself of yourself”.
India, among many other things, have brought forth Buddhism and with it the practice of meditation and the striving towards a middle way.
Cuba has brought forth the cha-cha-cha, a dance form that has a lot to teach us about learning to trust your partner, knowing when to lead and when to follow, living in the moment, and expressing or uniqueness.
Italy, often described as the birthplace of western civilization, has provided us with so many gifts that it is difficult to pick one. Italian food, however, is so intertwined with its culture, displaying family, tradition and a sense of slow enjoyment.
Nigeria with its ancient tradition of oral storytelling can teach us valuable lessons about a sense of community, spontaneity, flexibility and harmony with the environment.
All cultures of the world have brought forth traditions, customs, practices, and philosophies like the one’s I have described above. Whenever we are moving to another country and another cultural environment, the question we should ask ourselves is which of these customs or philosophies have the potential to fascinate us and keep us interested for a longer period of time.
Identifying one such aspect about the local culture is a great starting point to develop a passion towards understanding the local culture, as well as providing us with the opportunity to become part of the local community. Joining cha-cha-cha classes, finding a group to discuss Persian poetry, or participating in the local storytelling community are fantastic ways to meet local people and slowly internalizing the values and beliefs of the locals.
To me, joining Kung-Fu classes and learning more about Persian poetry are two ways of how I increase my cultural learning. What are yours?