Explicit Difference, Implicit Unity: “‘Go, Go, Go,’ Said the Bird”

Everyone loves to be busy. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if we love it. Day-jobs, camping, soccer games, school, volunteering, dinner-parties—that’s just an average Wednesday. Our activities define us. But from the whirlwind, it’s not difficult to lose orientation & forget which way is up. This is for the same reason that the countryside accelerates as the train picks up speed, and why Charlemagne swore the Sun spun around the Earth—it was simply obvious, from that point of view. We can understand that errant conclusions are begotten of an errant mind agitated by frenetic activity. In other words, with no still-point for reference, we’ll never see, be, or act clearly. To be busy is not difficult; to do it well can be another matter.

Think of it like an old analog grandfather-clock: it doesn’t have a GPS or Google+ app, but ostensibly it tells time. It does this through the play of the hands & symbols upon a circular clock-face. It is however, only through a particular agreement between these two parties that they perform their function: the one revolves while the other abides.

Next, imagine if the numerals started to chase the hands in their interminable circumambulation: we’d have to switch to digital and might as well melt down the thing’s mechanics to make musket-balls, & use the cherry frame as fire-wood to heat the forge because there would be altogether no reason to keep these raw materials invested in the form of a grandfather clock with restless numerals.

Here’s another image, loosely lifted from the thought-experiment of a metaphysician called Max Black, which he put forth in his paper “The Identity of Indiscerneables:” picture an entire universe consisting only of two great iron spheres, like gigantic musket-balls we harvested from the erstwhile grandfather clock. Now consider that both spheres traveling due west at a thousand kilometres per millisecond. This, Black points out, is actually the stuff of utter nonsense because the iron dyad might as just well be perfectly still, or traveling east south-east for that matter—there would be no manifest difference in the cases that I described, irregardless of their velocity. But now suppose one iron colossus suddenly stopped…ergo: ACTION! Crucially, the motion of Thing Two is relative, contingent on the contrast with its counterpart’s velocity. The essential point is relativity: that movement depends on a reference.

“Sure” one might say, “it’s true in theory & maybe it applies to monolithic metal billiard-balls in hypothetical multiverses. But what’s the practical relevance?” The relevance is that relationship is fundamental, even in so-called “real life”—relativity is absolute. Respect for this polarity is basic to our well-being.

Physically, we can recognize balanced movement as the result of an appropriate polar relationship between motion & stillness. In the contralateral pattern of human gait, for example, we seek a spiraling wave of motion through the spine, girdles, & limbs. This is the active pole. But this activity requires an immovable axis around which to orient—what Ida Rolf called “The Line” & described as “a functional phenomenon…true verticality, the goal of Structural Integration.” This axis is the still-point; the other pole. If everything moves at once, then nothing does. Entropy prevails & the body’s intrinsic kinetic melodies decline into a quaking cacophony. One wishes one had the option to dash out of the figurative concert hall with one’s hands over one’s ears & the intention to take up oil-painting in a multiverse with different harmonics.

Psychologically, we find that the same principle of polarity: that mental activity must be balanced by mental repose. Anxiety, restlessness, stress: such experiences remind us when we have lost this happy equilibrium. When we fail to respect this polarity, we suffer therefore. Vedic philosophy clarifies this interplay with two contrasting metaphysical aspects—puruṣa & prakṛti. The latter represents the rhapsodic physical world and the former the unwavering consciousness that perceives it. It is the union of these two aspects that gives birth to our experience; consciousness & its contents. In mythological depiction of this interplay: Shiva sits full-lotus, deep in meditation, while Shakti twirls before him in ecstatic dance. All the manifest world is motion, & consciousness is the immobile fulcrum around which it spins: “the still-point in the turning world,” to borrow T. S. Elliott’s phrase from “Four Quartets.” He continues:

Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance…

Take the image of a lake: a surfeit of ripples will distort accurate reflection, shattering the full moon into ten-thousand flickering facsimiles. The mind is not otherwise. Thought is only effective against the backdrop of stillness.

Through Rolfing SI, we reestablish a relationship with this stillness that is the source of all activity. We learn to find repose within the body. Releasing fixations in the fascia, we discover the possibility of a more balanced relationship within ourselves, with our environment, & with gravity. The mind invariably reflects the body’s state and equilibrium pervades all our diverse aspects. As Ida Rolf, describes it:

Any practitioner of Structural Integration…knows that all points of the body house the ‘I’…Our experience further indicates that well-being does not merely manifest the physiological competence of individual parts, but rather indicates relationship among parts, and more important, between the man and earth’s energy field.

Balance of activity & stillness in our inners worlds, our outer worlds, & the relationship between them: this is the goal of Rolfing SI and the hallmark of human flourishing. In the rift between a silent consciousness & the vibrant world, this is the space where our experience unfolds; the more spacious this span, the broader the bloom. Movement is analogous: the clearer our axis, the freer our motion. Finally, one last quote, mostly for my own edification after pounding-out such a wordy post…from the Tao Te Ching, chapter v:

The more you talk of it, the less you comprehend.
It is better not to speak of things you do not understand.
Hold to the center.

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