online: 9 september 2012
modified: 6, 9 september 2012

6 september 2012 aspirations against gravity

on the ground and above an evening picnic in warm air on Hampstead Heath... of salmon and cucumber sandwiches and cold green tea with fruit flavour... (new products in a nearby supermarket)... man alone with a traction kite that lifts him briefly to his own height in a slight breeze...

...poor blackberries this year... several weeks late... of small size and sour taste... is this a hint of a wilder (or an over-stretched) ecology?... (or just a poor summer)...

...distant sight of the Shard (a vast pointed tower building of glass... said to be the tallest structure in Europe)... and of a Hampstead church steeple... but isn't the religious one more serene and the worldly one cruder... while both of them seem to embody the same angle or proportion (perhaps for stability at greatest height)... and the same aspiration towards the heavens...

...two men attempting to walk a tightrope (using a fairly slack band of high-tech woven fabric... tightened by levers and toggles when stretched between tree trunks)... two modest middle-aged men wobbling in bare feet half a metre above ground... and barely able to do it but learning no doubt... learning to embody the earth's gravity while directing nerves and muscles to actuate upwardness... combined with relaxation of other nerves and muscles not needed to keep upright... (the inhibition of unnecessary muscle tension being a primary part of the skill that sustains us as two-legged creatures)...

...but the first miracle was walking and standing still on feet and ground as they are... the continuous gymnastic that nearly everyone of us can do miraculously well as small children... but which we often do less well when grown UP (meaning taller and thicker and often becoming bent)...

aspirations against gravity
...this title is misleading... for the aspiration to go up is not against gravity but with it... a great insight that was discovered not only by Sir Charles Sherrington* (in his lifelong study of the integrative action of the nervous system) but also by F M Alexander** (in the postural technique that is named after him and was later developed by Walter Carrington*** and colleagues)

* Sherrington, Sir Charles, The Integrative Action of the Nervous System, Yale University Press and Oxford University Press, 1906 (and later editions)
(see also Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on his Nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1951)

**Alexander, F M,The Use of the Self, Methuen and Company, London 1932 (and in later editions)

***Carrington, Walter, Thinking Aloud: Talks on Teaching the Alexander Technique, edited by Jerry Sontag, Mornum Time Press, San Francisco 1994 (especially pages 151 to 154 for his description of walking).


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