3 May 2012
We’re going to be at the Smithsonian today, but I really like this quotation from the founder of the Smithsonian, James Smithson (Scotsman, 1765-1829). It’s a neat encapsulation of the Hermetic philosophy, among other things, and a clear sign of his generosity to another nation of which he knew almost nothing:
Every man is a valuable member of his society who, by his observations, researches, and experiments, procures knowledge for men… It is in his knowledge that man has found his greatness and his happiness, the high superiority which he holds over the other animals who inhabit the earth with him, and consequently no ignorance is probably without loss to him, no error without evil… The particle and the planet are subject to the same laws, and what is learned of one will be known of the other… I bequeath the whole of my property… To the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.
update: I love the Smithsonian for a number of reasons. I got $200 worth of books for my classroom today, at a teacher discount. I got to turn the crank of a cotton ‘gin for the first time. I got to see the two Bibles that Jefferson cut up to make his “Jefferson Bible”, and 3-D stereographs of civil war battlefields. It all contributes to human knowledge and my own deepening
update 2: I’m watching an African-American woman ia 1960s style dress explain the Greensboro Lunch Counter, and how to train yourself to run a peaceful protest, to a crew of Muslim girls all in uniform from a middle school. There’s also a crew from a Christian academy. And they’re discussing civil rights. This is why I love the Smithsonian.
3 May 2012
chi, chi Kung, tai chi, taiji
Yesterday at breakfast, a colleague asked me, “did you get your Taiji done this morning?” I told her yes. She said, “good for you. The reason to tell people about your work is to get held to the commitment until keeping the commitment comes naturally.”
So it proves. Today is day 60— not quite two months since I began this little endeavor. There wasn’t any particular insight today, except something that I had no conscious control over. It’s kind of funky, so I have no idea how to explain it.
The first day I was in DC on this field trip, I had a conference room in which to practice. The other days, I had to practice in my room’s entryway. The first day there was awkward. It’s a space longer than it is wide. As a result, while I didn’t exactly run into furniture or walls, I was cramped. Yesterday was slightly better but not great practice. I had to be fairly forgiving.
Today’s workout was intense. It was like my body figured out how to do the internal work of Taiji just by going through the motions in the most haphazard way. I didn’t bump any furniture. The form flowed into and around the available space, including the small closet alcove. As I turned into the windmill kick near the end of the form, I brought my hands up to the balance and…
And I was standing inside the alcove, facing outward. My hands were braced against the frame of the alcove door. I had enough space to make the kick, with enough clearance for my head, and for my leg to return to the ground in the right place.
My spatial awareness faculty had sort of “folded” the tai chi form into the available practice space, so that when I arrived at the most difficult maneuver, I was in position to help myself. It happened more than just that one time, too, as I worked through the patterns. My body may not have wanted to get out of bed to do the form, but it was prepared to put my feet down and extend my arms efficiently, so I did the work without hitting anything.