“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists,” says a Japanese Proverb.
In these times of climate change, we all need to bear this in mind. It’s not how we resist the battering, but how we pick up again after repeated onslaughts.
Bamboo is an amazingly versatile plant (actually, a grass) with many uses in Asian cultures. We use it for buildings, furniture, outdoor infrastructure, artistic decor and even eat parts of it.
Beyond these utility functions, the bamboo holds a philosophical lesson that the ancient Japanese and Chinese knew very well: its flexibility is its strength. It can bend and move with the wind or water or other element, rather than being rigid, unyielding and ultimately vulnerable to an unexpected jolt and sideways shift.
Bamboo was mentioned several times by Asian researchers and practitioners who came together at Resilience 2011: Asia Regional Conference on Building Livelihood Resilience in Changing Climate, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 3 to 5 March 2011.
Resilience was discussed and interpreted in a number of ways at the conference. But participants broadly agreed that it is the ability of any individual or community or system to absorb external shocks, bounce back and transform or continue to grow.
Such bouncing back, in some climate related situations, could be to alternatives rather than to the original condition. For example, if poorly built structures are damaged in a disaster or extreme weather condition, the recovery could – and should – be to build back better.
Indeed, the bamboo metaphor is widely used in various fields from business management to self-help counseling. See these interesting links for further insights:
Australian Anthill, June 2009: ‘Be the bamboo’: Thinking tips for innovative minds