Grandmother’s belief in the value of effort

So I was browsing through the largest bookstores here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, brushing my palms over the books like in the wheat field scene of 300, the movie. Nowadays most shelves seem to be stocked with books on how-to woman, how-to gay, and how-to money. One shelf with various versions of the new definition of history by Harari, and two shelves of Neil Gaiman. As if thousands of people stormed out of their houses to get hold of the collected writings of Neil Gaiman, as soon as the credits rolled on Netflix The Sandman.

Next to the IELTS textbooks I found a stack of The Catcher In The Rye. Nice cover design, close to the original. I picked up one. Good re-read. Depressing though. I downloaded a copy of Catch-22, funny at first. Until I remembered why I don’t watch TV. I started the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hilarious at first. Watched a couple of interviews with Hunter S. Thompson on Youtube. The late Hunter, the image of long term drug abuse. Didn’t find his book funny anymore. Great insights, hilarious still, but not funny.

A dear reader of my blog recommended, A Prayer for Owen Meany. So far I’ve only read half of chapter 6, The Voice. I didn’t get it at first, but the deeper I got into the chapter the more I understood Grandmother’s belief in the value of effort. Maybe Grandmother would side with Jack White, as he talks about inspiration and effort in the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights [Link to Youtube]. I enjoyed this stark contrast to Rick and Morty, the popular cartoon. Rick is the smartest man in the universe, is very active, does whatever he wants, but abhors effort (“Something Ricked This Way Comes” Season 1, Episode 9).

In Feldenkrais classes we distinguish between work and effort. Moshé Feldenkrais talked and wrote about those two words often. Work in a neutral sense, as the product of force and displacement, of superfluous work, effort, habit and self-image.

In his book Awareness Through Movement he writes, “Persons who normally hold their chests in a position as though air had been expelled by the lungs in an exaggerated fashion, with their chest both flatter than it should be and too flat to serve them efficiently, are likely to indicate its depth as several times larger than it is if asked to do so with their eyes closed. That is, the excessive flatness appears right to them, because any thickening of the chest appears to them a demonstrably exaggerated effort to expand their lungs. Normal expansion feels to them as a deliberately blown up chest would to another person. The way a man holds his shoulders, head, and stomach; his voice and expression; his stability and manner of presenting himself—all are based on his self-image. [..] However, not everybody is capable of identifying himself easily, and one may be greatly helped by the experience of others.”

To understand the difference between work and effort in movement, posture, and self-image, it’s best to look outside of movement, I guess. Into the stories of humankind. And then try to see it in ourselves. In our stories, believes, actions, thinking… and when we break it down even further, we may see it in our movements and posture as well, “and all that stuff.”