More challenging movements please

If someone asked for more challenging movements, what would those be?

Challenging in terms of flexibility, mayhaps? For example, by being required to place both legs behind the head, doing the splits, or folding the hands behind one’s back for prayer?

Challenging for strength, like handstand push-ups or one legged squats? Or challenging in terms of balance? For example circles of the pelvis and head, while standing on one leg?

Challenging for memory and muscle memory? Like a piano player being able to produce a difficult and long piece of sheet music from memory? Or a stage actor who faultlessly produces a long text from memory? A movement lesson with a hundred different moves?

Maybe challenging would mean the ability to stay focused, or maybe even awake? Or maybe, challenging for the ability to feel and sense small differences?

Challenging in cultural or ethical aspects? Movements that would seem indecent, like reaching down to touch ones sit-bones, or sliding the tongue in circles over the teeth or lips with an open mouth, or for example a twerk, movements of the buttocks, maybe even in a sensual fashion, that some would judge to be sexually provocative?

Or challenging in terms of pain, like finding a way to do joint movements without discomfort, for someone who is crippled by osteoarthritis or gout?

What is a challenge, to whom?

Labor pains in movement-literacy

“The cure for the literacy crisis lies, in my opinion, in reading. Specifically, I am recommending a certain kind of reading—free voluntary reading (henceforth FVR). FVR means reading because you want to. For school-age children, FVR means no book report, no questions at the end of the chapter, and no looking up every vocabulary word. FVR means putting down a book you don’t like and choosing another one instead. It is the kind of reading highly literate people do all the time.” – The Power of Reading, Stephen Krashen

Maybe something similar could be said for the move… movement… movement-cy… mov-eracy… moveiracy… crisis. Ok, I need to look at this word first. I need to find the word for it, or make one up. Moveiracy, based on the Old French word “movier”, would that be it? Either way, let me start with literacy:

Literacy, in its broadest sense describes particular ways of thinking about and doing reading and writing with the purpose of understanding or expressing thoughts or ideas in written form. (Definition from Wikipedia)

Numeracy is the ability to understand, reason with, and to apply simple numerical concepts. (Definition from Wikipedia)

Movement is already a noun, but it does not hit the same mark as the terms literacy and numeracy. I’m looking for a word that in its broadest sense means to act in particular ways of moving, thinking, sensing and feeling to understand and express ourselves through physical movements that serve intent, purpose, that express the state of our nervous system, our expertise and accomplishments in movement learning, our history, identity, our belonging to a class or group; through movement, instead of words.

Heck, where’s the nail that can nail down that definition? It’s like making a sentence that makes sense, but instead of using words it’s movement. And when the left arm moves but the pelvis does not support this movement then the sentence sounds funny or lacks momentum and roots, or is part of a play, a jest, a twitch or twiddle… something like this.

So, hm, 🤔 am I missing something here? Is the crisis so big and so all-encompassing that we don’t even have the first word to describe it?

Whenever you’re ready

Had lunch with my neighbour, yesterday. She’s an active, lively, well settled woman in her mid-40s (I guess) who recently got into Yoga. Now she keeps saying that I shall try Yoga. She promises that Yoga is not difficult and would change my life for the better. Quite to my own fascination, she has no ear for what I do for a living as a private teacher of Somatic Education, what my path to become such a person was, or what the pioneers of Somatic Education were.

Furthermore, I doubt that she’d ever picked up a book on the history of eastern-styled wellness practices, say for example, “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice,” by Mark Singleton, or “Traditional Chinese Medicine: Heritage and Adaption,” by Paul U. Unschuld. I just think that she loved the experiences she made at the high-end Yoga retreat she participated in, and that the teacher there made a big impression on her.

However, she also told me about her son, who’s in his mid-20s (I guess), and that she put him into an educational program of 6 months, a school for “coding.” This company takes 10 students per class, is starting a new class every month, and promises a job as software engineer upon graduation.

I had to laugh when she said I ought to go back into “coding” myself, as she recalled that I used to be a software engineer. I mean, good thinking, because it would for the least provide me with a social environment and social contacts, which I lack dearly at the moment. “You could do part time,” said she.

So I started to tell her about the profession of software engineering, and how it is different for young people in their mid-20ties, and experienced professionals (like me) who grew to be 50 soon. I told her how young engineers burn, and how older ones move into management, and why. I told her about different types of software, and about engineering problems, about the gravity of design decisions in planing and design (with the example of building a house, and compared that to software), about knowing the law, about communicating with experts from many different professions, about the existence of financial aspects to software engineering projects, the importance of good communication with the client, and … the actual carpentering, which she calls “coding”. I told her about different types of jobs in the world of IT, and job experience in general—as she herself seemed to never have been burdened with working in a job. I told her about career paths and what is most fascinating about the most prominent parts in the life cycle of a software engineer.

I don’t know; I think she hit a nerve in me. But somebody had to say something. I usually don’t talk about these things. But she was so naive about working and software engineering in particular (which she simply referred to as “coding”) that it was me to say something. She absolutely loved it. I could see her eyes light up as her understanding expanded. In the end her suggestions changed from “You should try coding again,” to “You should be at that school so people can learn from you.”

Now I wonder if I’ll ever get a chance to explain to her the difference between Yoga and my work as a private teacher of Somatic Education.

On creating movement lessons

Like a Grey Heron I have a slow flight. My main periods of hunting are around dawn and dusk, but I may also be active at other times of day. I may lie motionless on a soft living room rag, or on my bed, waiting for movement to stir up from the depths of phylogenetic history, to surface to actionable sensation. And when it hits, I swim, I surf, I follow the currents; I move and let me be moved, I feel, I sense, I think; I repeat, I relate, I identify, sort, categorise and file, and after that corner of the great veil has fallen once again I might even scribble down some notes.

A Study in Castleton Green

This morning I thought it’s no good to go from my apartment building straight into Starbucks, and sat down on a bench next to the pond, the one in front of Starbucks. I took a moment. A quarter attempt at stopping time. I waited until I could feel my posture, the bench under my behind, the way I held my chest and balanced my head on top of it, how the wind brushed gently over my cheeks, the warmth and moisture in the air, the smell of the trees and fish and algae, the distant sounds of cars and construction workers drilling, always hammering away with the dreams of the rich.

As I was indulging in my senses I was thinking of a recent email from Simon, from the North. I have no user tracking and no Google analytics on my blog, so I do depend on emails from readers for feedback. It’s nice to receive friendly, compassionate, like minded emails. Not for business, just a sharing amongst humans. 

As I was sitting at the pond I was thinking of language, and that the Vietnamese language is indeed such a distant accent of English, that linguists would go as far as calling it a different Sprachraum altogether. I giggled. How pretentious! I still had Neil Oliver in my ears, and how he pronounces “to go home”. I love the simplicity of the Scottish “o”, how it beams straight forward to the next letter, whereas the English perform some complicated artistry with the vocal apparatus in order to arrive at the end of it.

As so often these days, I was thinking of my childhood. “You’re different”, “You’re not like us”, “Alfons. Your name sounds strange.” The things the other kids living on the countryside said to me. “Where did they hear that first?” I’m thinking now, “Where did they learn such phrases? What happened to them, what was their harsh fate, in order to be able to think like this, in order to be able to talk like this?” My chin was leaning on my hand, my elbow on my thigh, my foot up on the rim of the pond. With my eyes I followed the goldfish in the pond. “There’s so many different types of goldfish in this pond.”

Castleton Green is a type of green color, dark green. Green is associated with nature, harmony, balance and youth. It fits the pond, and is a nice play on today’s blog title and the color Scarlet, my thinks.

Yesterday night I read stories from books written by a German lawyer, Ferdinand von Schirach. Fähner, The Cello, Funfair. True crime stories, touching stories, and quite shocking. Schirach seems to write from a perspective where he protects and sugarcoats for the ones he deems to be the good, the innocent, the victims, the righteous. Strange stance, for a lawyer, if you’d ask me. How can we overcome experiences of harassment and negligence? I think Moshé Feldenkrais had a lot to say to that account. A string with a noose is just a very poor choice. In fact, no choice at all. “Death is the end of all suffering, and all good things as well,” Moshé Feldenkrais used to say. Moshé Feldenkrais said we need choices, that’s why he’d been teaching so many ways of one movement. Only with a multitude of choices can we truly choose, and are we truly free.

A short goldfish with a very red and very big and very round head surfaced from the Castleton green water and nibbled at some debris that’s been pushed around by the light breeze. Food, not food, food? His big round mouth opened and closed and opened and closed.

They somehow failed to process me in school. They failed to make my mind compliant. They failed to make me trust and believe in them. How many of my kind are there? Scrap goods. But unlike waste, scrap has value.

This morning, before coming down to sit at the pond, I was listening to the podcast episode History, Truth & the imagination by Neil Oliver. He talked about Homer, and how Homer was one person or maybe many people, and he talked about the moment The Iliad was put to writing. Somehow that stroke him as the most important thing of it. The writing. But as I was listening I was waiting. I was waiting for Neil to come through with the story of The Iliad as it was before writing. But he didn’t mention it. Not a word of it. I felt being sold short, sourly so. I don’t know why, why didn’t Neil mention it, he of all people. “Why didn’t you mention it, Neil?” Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote it down, though, in her book The Enchanted Hour:

“In ancient Greece, a rhapsode did not read from a book. He was the book. His memory held, among other works, the two great epics of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey. He would pull them from the shelf and read them aloud, so to speak, when he recited them.” 

“Today, if you pick up a printed and bound copy of The Iliad or The Odyssey, what you may notice first is not the richness of the storytelling but the sheer size of the thing. It is still incredible to think that once upon a time people commited them to memory. Not only would a good rhapsode have both stories stored in his head, but he would be able to pick up either tale at any point and recite onward without a hitch. This is mastery of a sort that has become foreign to most modern people [..] few of us today have anything approaching the interior resources of a rhapsode.”

Well, maybe rhapsodes existed only after the books were written. Tomaito tomato. I shall read a bit now. Sherlock Holmes The Complete Novels And Stories is the book I purchased yesterday, I passed up on Homer. Even though the book with its golden covers and carefully crafted typeset looked gorgeous on the shelf. No, the English tongue it is, or should I say the Scottish, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887 A Study in Scarlet, “What say you to that, dear reader?”

Journeys over the body

As I awoke this morning I found myself lying on my belly with my feet hanging over the edge of my bed. Obviously I don’t have a pet cat. I wiggled my toes, then the ankles of my feet. “Mm hm.” My head was turned to the left, easy for me. “I haven’t put my hands on my back in quite a while,” me was thinking. And I was surprised by the lack of range of motion when I did. My right hand could slide a bit to the left and to the right over the small of my back, but couldn’t slide up between my shoulder blades, let alone touch its fingers to my neck.

“We haven’t been on a beach vacation in a long time!” Would that expression be equivalent to that of the hands on the back traveling up to the neck? Can our hands take journeys over our bodies just like our bodies take journeys over the physical world, The planet Earth, that sprouted our bodies?

And what if, let’s say, if there’s a road block? What-if there’s no roads at all? How would we get anywhere? Put a jungle machete to the undergrowth? Force the convoy over the mountain? How will I make my hands travel up to in-between my shoulder-blades on my back? Would a long and far journey of the hands to regions less developed for tourism take a longer, more thorough preparation and longer traveling time as well?