The Fiction of Fixity & the Friction it Generates

To those who see as we do, all things are dancing.

That’s Nietzsche of course, from Thus Spake Zarathustra. The latter fellow was an ancient prophet from Persia, “Zoroaster,” he was called in Greece, “Aureate Star.” But when the Greek philosopher called Heraclitus said that “a man never steps in the same river twice” he simply dressed Nietzsche’s message in a fluvial metaphor. The river is not the same, & neither is the man; both are patterns through which the substance of reality forever flows; they are not fixed. In fact, neither rivers nor hominids enjoy any privileged ontological status in the grand scheme of the cosmos: to quote Heraclitus again, “everything flows.” Even rocks look like liquid if you’re Saturn.

Physicists indeed imagine the vibration of strings to be the universe’s most basic constituent—not the strings but their vibration; being is not a thing but a process. Tantric philosophy calls this vibration that is ontologically basic spanda. This Sanskrit word shares an etymological root with our good old Saxon word “span.” And indeed it suits the image of vibrating strings, stretched to perfection over the neck of a cosmic cello so they might optimally resonate the universe’ harmonies withal.

Given that everything changes, change is everything. Consider then a situation in which one cog on this cosmic whirligig suddenly determined to remain fixed. Buddhism has a word for this: dukkha. Often translated as “suffering,” dukkha can really refer to any tension, stress, struggle, or lack of satisfaction or dis-ease. The word’s Sanskrit roots evoke a spinning wheel—with a hitch. (Incidentally, sukha means “bliss”—i. e. smooth hitchless spinning, the plosive “d” sound resolves to the sibilant “s.”) Returning to the metaphor of the universe as a Stradivari violin, the strings won’t ring if they can move.

Since the world is dynamic, any fixed point will present a source of strain. The discrepancy will create friction. The body naturally inclines towards taking a preeminent part in this ecstatic ontological dance. When any tissue in the body becomes fixed, however, we experience this friction as tightness, tension, pain—discomfort is the body’s protest. Mental processes are analogous & interrelated: ideas are fluid by nature. But when they ossify into fixed beliefs, they generate friction with a flowing world & interpersonal struggles are a direct result. Rolfing® Structural Integration works to dissolves these points of tension or contention with the natural procession. Ida Rolf explains best of all:

This is the gospel of Rolfing: when the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.

So then, we must ask ourselves which we prefer: tension or ease? Friction or fluidity? Lifeless strings or resonating melodies? Dukkha or sukha? Struggle or bliss? Nobody chooses for us.

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