There is comfort & beauty in symmetry; the balance of an ordered form. From the yoga of three lines, suddenly emerges the triangle, a portal into an Euclidian infinity. Geometry is a projection of this psychological Platonism.
trapezoids & an hundred other quadrilaterals,
& Mandelbrot sets—
the myriad ministers of Apollo march forth in perfect legions, the latter whose flourishes & fanfares proclaim the plenum of our pleasant dream: the vision of a spherical universe, expanding all around in concentric circles, the uniform brilliance of radial symmetry. It is pornography for our left-brains.
As a counterpart, we find the shapes of nature: the world as it is. Where the former impulse imposes outside Euclidian order on experience, the latter receives organic form. We might conceive of expressive & a receptive poles to our psyches; a yang & a yin, Plato & Aristotle, Apollo & Dionysus personified. When we
experience a cloud,
a splash of water,
the lines in marble,
or the grain in wood,
we sense a harmony to it. And yet we could never put this into words. The order is ultimately ineffable. Nature transcends our capacity to translate her marvels into the rude symbols of our alphabet, or hieroglyphs. She teases us out of thought with her delicate complexity. We can only quantify her forms after we have first reduced them to caricatures or mere abstractions from the real thing.
One or the other conception is not wrong. Instead they serve distinct functions. Rather than right & wrong, these two understandings represent left & right. We create trouble, however, when their relationship goes out of balance. If you put all your chips on one side of the bucket, the whole vessel will topple over, spilling your winnings all over the linoleum. We do, however, have a tendency today to over-emphasize left-brain Euclidian understanding at the expense of its counterpart. Nietzsche diagnosed this imbalance in “The Birth of Tragedy” when he pointed to the tyranny of Apollo in our culture. It is our prerogative to delude ourselves; as free individuals, we are free to make such mistakes. In the illusory fog, we drift off into an interminable ocean of numbers. The shore isn’t going anywhere, we are.
The way in which we approach our own bodies often reflects this prejudice towards conceptual relationship with the world, as distinct from a direct one. If we wish to bring right understanding to our lives, we must be willing to suspend this sinister impulse to interminable codification, quantification, ordering. The latter strives to fit the world into its preconception, the former receives the world just as it arises.
We have a certain experience of our bodies. The question is:
do our standards precede this experience, or do they develop as a living response to it?
In the former case, we measure the body against a preconceived ideal. In the latter, we form our understanding from direct experience.
In my practice, I have found that measuring the body against any ideal or preconception often perpetuates the strain we are attempting to remedy. The very act of comparison generates psychological tension as we attempt to reconcile our models with reality; our ideas about the world with the world itself—forcing round pegs into square holes, as it were. Such psychological striving invariably finds expression in the physical structure. It is not necessarily causal; it is rather two expressions of a single event. One might compare it to a streak of lightning & the concomitant clap of thunder: the thunder doesn’t cause the lighting, the lightning doesn’t cause the thunder; they are different yet the same, not one, not two…. Just so with mind & body.
If I measure myself against an Apollonian ideal, I will generate chronic tension in my neck & shoulders. This represents an active approach—a deliberate striving towards a fixed standard. A receptive approach to the experience of our embodiment, conversely, does not agitate the psyche. When we are willing to receive all experience as it arise, nothing is a problem. We don’t, as it were, try to fit the pegs into any holes at all. Where before we lived as mere sleepwalkers,
Stumbling through streets of illusion,
Tripping on conceptual cobblestones,
Drunk on the stuff of dreams,
In this way, we live in the world, as a part of it.