Just Like Water

Have you ever read or heard a similar concept from different people in a short amount of time, as if the Universe was trying to tell you something? That happens to me and when it does, I pay attention. I was reading about Bruce Lee saying that his whole philosophy was to live like water and to fight his opponent not as rock, but as water. How very Taoist. Taoism is very much about nature and living with the forces within nature with great efficiency and calm. Rock is stiff, stalwart like a castle, blocks opposing energy with great fortitude and is forceful in its solidarity. It must be tough being rock. Water has a different appeal and needs less energy to face opposition. Don’t work against nature, go with it, go with the flow, as the Taoists said centuries ago. Don’t block like a rock, go around, above or under, like water. This seems much easier to me, and easier on the hands.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee said he lived his life and fought his opponents like water.

Then I learned from an interview from Jack DeJohnette that his whole goal on the drums was to imitate water in all its forms from rushing brooks to waterfalls. Again, how musically Taoist. If you get to know Jack’s playing he very much sounds like rolling, crashing, splashing water with all the various textures and dynamics of water in nature. He is also a master at playing over the bar-line and not overstating the downbeat which is what water would do if it was rushing alongside music. To really hear the joy in Jack’s playing, one must be fully unified with the beat to hear what he is actually doing because he is not one to spoon-feed the downbeat, while simultaneously swinging harder than a clock pendulum. Water in nature flows and adapts as physical improvisation in the moment. Rock is stiff and states its case and doesn’t move, as if it doesn’t listen. Water acts differently, as if it is listening and adapting in the moment. Water seems as if it is improvising. I like that. How intriguing it is to think of drumming as water and to imitate the constantly changing sounds of water in nature. How interesting to think of water as metaphor.

I had read these water concepts from these men in a few weeks by coincidence. I couldn’t help but pay attention and take it to heart. It changed my life and I feel much less fearful and more agile at adaptation to different conditions, in life and in music. When something doesn’t go the way I wished, I roll with it like water instead of fighting it like rock. After all, what carved the rocky one-mile deep Grand Canyon? Water did. I’ll go the soft way, please. It’s easier on the hands.


Jack DeJohnette

Jack DeJohnette plays like water.