I’ve just finished reading Richard Garfinkle’s book, Celestial Matters, a hard sci-fi novel. Except the science that underlies this fiction isn’t the Newtonian-Einsteinian universe with Darwinian biology, but rather the physics of Aristotle, the planetary motions of Ptolemy (all crystal spheres and Pythagorean harmonies), and the concepts of spontaneous generation. The Western World, called the Delian League, is trapped in a multi-thousand year war with the Middle Kingdom (China), because the Xi technology of the East is alternately stronger and weaker than the the Aristotlean science (including the Homeric idea that a hero can be possessed by the spirit of a god) of the West. Fascinating book.
Of course I was reminded of myself. Here I am, a westerner trained in tai chi, learning about Agrippan, western mysteries while also practicing chi flows. It’s hard not to get all worked up about a book like this. The way scientists from two radically different models of science would communicate (or rather, fail to do so), is akin what I’m going through now.
Anyway, today’s practice. I decided I’d try to do the form Hard. By this I mean, with the arms and legs stiff, with muscles tensed. I’d just seen a video of a 77-year-old tai chi master, and it was clear that he was doing tai chi with this kind of hardness in his movements, so I figured I’d try it. I go through the qi gong forms easily enough, but I only made it halfway through the tai chi form before I was dripping sweat in places, and felt depleted. Now I know how much farther I have to develop. In terms of chi flows, I suppose you could say that I started as fire or with eagerness, flowed into metal, then gradually became more wooden, and then flowed more into water, before finally becoming air — a loud-winded beginner who doesn’t even know the chi flow structure of the Chinese/Taoist elements but still writes about it.
The long and short of it is that I was not able to maintain that kind of forcefulness all the way through. I was able to reach the halfway point, and I think I have a goal now for upcoming work (able to do tai chi as a hard form all the way through)…. Maybe by the end of the second year? Who knows?
Even as I relaxed from trying to do the forms in a hard way, and returned to a more gentle and flowing movement, though, I was conscious of how much stronger I am. It was hard not to feel more power in my arms, more strength in my legs, more capacity in my body. These things can be improved. They can be built upon. There’s a foundation for future work.
What else? Oh, right. Yesterday I had a flat tire in the morning. I had hit a pothole or something in the road late at night, and in the morning I found a punctured hole in the front right tire. I got the tire changed to the spare, and the car back on the road in about fifteen minutes. A friend of mine helped me refresh the air in the spare tire so I was good to go for the day, and the folks at the local tire place got me roadworthy with new tire later in the day.
A different Andrew, a year ago, might have gotten all worked up about this: why does the universe hate me? What did I do to deserve this fate? I think the tai chi has helped calm down that sense of personal responsibility and personal karma and personal blame, even though that’s actually a harder form or pattern to overcome. This kind of stuff happens — there’s potholes and stuff in the road, and our tires will need replacing at times. The strength to deal with such stuff as it happens, without drama or suffering, is one of the key benefits of such work as I’ve done this past year. Into every life tasks appear, some of our choosing. And some not. Flow from task to task with easy grace. Let the chi carry you, one thing to the next. Alter the flow to what works for you right now, and then go with the flow.