Tai Chi Y3D224: Finding What Matters

John Michael Greer’s column today is about the problem of marginal costs, and return on investment. That’s sort of a boring way of saying that he’s explaining what happens when disintermediation occurs — when the folks who insert themselves into the pay structure between you and your doctor, say, like insurance executives and adjusters, malpractice lawyers and so on, can no longer be afforded, not by a single doctor, but by a society as a whole.  It’s an interesting piece, and I recommend it.

Adirondack chair class
Chiseling out the arm-pocket

Yesterday, I completed the construction of the principal structural elements of my Adirondack chair, at the Eli Whitney Museum. It’s coming along nicely, but I still have to saw and shape the front skirt of the chair.

the most interesting part of yesterday’s class was chiseling out the back-support board.  A chisel turns out to be very much like an unboxed plane with a very sharp edge.  I didn’t cut myself, nor did anyone else in the class, but the resulting smoothness was worthy of respect.  Holy cow, I thought, I did that with nothing but a sharpened blade and hand-strength?

In that context, today’s tai chi practice took on a new cast.  What we practice, we become.  If I practice carpentry, even if it is only to make Adirondack chairs, I will get better at this skill.  My chair designs will become more regular, more orderly, and more beautiful.  I will get better at judging the angle for the back, and planting the screws accurately. I will drill elegantly-shaped countersinks of exactly the right depth.  My apprentice chair will serve as a useful model for what comes next.

Adirondack chair class
The chair, without the backplate installed yet.

The apprenticeship of my tai chi practice was back in the late 1990s, under Laddie Sacharko of Star Farm Taiji.  And I did a hundred-day commitment to tai chi practice back in 2006, which ended on March 8 2006.  During that sequence, I was only writing an entry every ten days or so (here’s day 90, and day 45, and day 30), or really when I felt like I had something to say about tai chi.

And what I see, is that this earlier effort to begin a tai chi practice on a daily basis contains the seeds of what I’m doing now as a school teacher — a maker of digital code and a maker of physical objects. It leads me to believe that I’m on the right path these days: because I continue to be a maker of physical objects, and a digital creator, and I continue to be a tai chi practitioner.

I said in my interview the other day that having a daily practice is making a commitment to some kind of unfolding-of-self.  We don’t know what emerges from ourselves when we make a commitment to a daily practice, but something will emerge.  A seed, under the right conditions, must blossom into the kind of plant that it is; and we, too, are seeds.  Daily practices — whether of tai chi or meditation, or magic, or druidry, or carpentry or improv or what-have-you — are about creating the right conditions so that we open, blossom and bring forth fruit.

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