Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Becoming the Teapot

This summer I got a concussion.

On the fourth of July my newly muscled younger brother kicked a soccer ball as hard as he could from about 5 feet away and it hit me squarely in the face. I sat down confused as he and the 5 year old kid we met at the pool had a good laugh at my expense. I couldn't really express what was wrong and I didn't want to spoil the fun so I tried to act like a good sport when the kid asked me what my coach would think if he saw that I quit after getting hit in the face once.

I had been working on writing a program with my friend Dan in my abundant summer free time after getting back from Costa Rica and when I sat down to work later that night, I had trouble connecting my thoughts in logical ways. I noticed my head was cloudy and I was getting irrationally frustrated with problems that weren't as serious as I was making them out to be. When these feelings didn't go away over the next couple days, I had my mom take me to the emergency room.

I described my symptoms to the doctor (headaches, dizziness, frustration, confusion) and the event where all of this started, and he immediately informed me that I almost certainly had a concussion. After some tests to make sure nothing was seriously wrong, I was sent on my way with the instructions that I was to avoid exercise, reading, video games, driving and anything else that would cause mental strain for about a week. This is to say that I was told to stop doing literally (well not literally) everything that I had been spending my time doing: no more Street Fighter, no more programming, no more gym, no more Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, no more guitar,  nothing.

The next day at an absolute loss for what to do with myself, I logged into the Netflix account that my parents had decided to get as a way to properly utilize the newly purchased and not often used Xbox One. Something in my hazy and untraceable thoughts told me to look up Bruce Lee because he was a cool guy, one thing led to the next, and I had watched 3 or 4 Bruce Lee movies as well as 2 documentaries about this person who I had no interest in the day before. At some point during this, I had also decided that I wanted to be Bruce Lee.

In my quest to become Bruce Lee I purchased a couple of his books, a jump rope, and I watched countless YouTube videos of him doing impressive martial arts things and explaining the potpourri of ideas that made up his tao. The  interview that has stuck with me was one in which he was talking about how his personal philosophies had ended up in his movies.

Bruce Lee here is referring to how he approached fighting, which isn't of much use to someone as adverse to violence as me, but one of the best (and potentially worst) parts about quoting people is how we can interpret and make applicable what others have to say even when it has no basis in what they originally meant. For whatever reason, in my unabashedly illogical thoughts the line about becoming the teapot stuck out. It has since become something like a mantra in my life.

Something about the metaphorical resonance of the whole situation struck a chord with me and becoming the teapot is at the heart of it all. The whole life throwing you a curveball and you rolling with the punches, making the best of a bad situation, and eventually taking away something of meaning that you bring back to share with others speaks to being raised on idealistic movies that always have a happy ending, acknowledging that, and sticking to your convictions anyway (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Run On). To me, the phrase itself says something about working towards self improvement and always staying flexible, but never taking oneself too seriously.

Am I crazy for making an out of context line from an old kung fu movie into something of a personal philosophy? Probably. Maybe that soccer ball knocked some already loose screws out of place. Taking a look at the whole of human existence shows there have certainly been worse philosophies. The point is, I might not know exactly what I want to do or who I want to be (unique problems I'm sure, at least it isn't Bruce Lee anymore), but I take solace in the fact that no matter what, I will always be working towards becoming the teapot.

Feel free to join me in my quest to become the teapot at REDACTED which will hopefully exist by the time you read this. Edit: It doesn't exist, but I thought it read nicely with this sentence.

James Budday
Class of 2016