Sunday, October 10, 2010

yo-yo #82: higby proyo 1

gracious, i am so busy. being a teacher is hard, existence-filling work. i love it, but teaching is not the kind of thing you can really step into 'slowly' or 'half-way' (at least if you aim to be decent at it). good teaching (like good yo-yoing) is about living moment after moment with abandon and getting soaked to the bone. i recognize that i haven't blogged much, and now that i'm back working regular, my rhythms probably won't change substantially.

to compound matters, my daughter is in her first play - a christmas carol. so there are now all kinds of rehearsals to accommodate (not to mention her fledgling tae kwon do career - yes, i'm thrilled she's into martial arts and there was NO pressure on my part, i can tell you). there was a parent meeting for the production the other day; sort of a last-minute 'you understand the insanity that you've signed up for' kind of thing. while waiting to get started, a parent asked me about 'the yo-yo virus' that has effectively permeated the halls at my school. wherever i teach, it's a foregone conclusion that the student body will collectively dive into mass yo-yo-hysteria by november (i'm not bragging - kids like yo-yo's and i am a 'dab hand' at them... it's natural). said parent was buying his kid 'a fifth yo-yo' and he wanted to know more about my involvement with such a weird, niche activity.

these conversations are always charged with the kind of curiosity that seems to beg (tacitly or overtly) for some kind of demonstration, so... whatever... i played some yo-yo for the guy (i threw this yo-yo, which i had in my pocket). i'm always interested by the 'art form' that these little mini-presentations represent. i'm pretty sure i could play yo-yo in front of the pope or chuck norris and not feel too bad about the actual tricks... the awkward part is what comes immediately after - and this is TOTALLY different when you're playing for a group of kids.

when you reveal your yo-yo powers to kids, they allow their jaws to drop. they allow themselves to believe that it's something magical. they allow themselves to 'want in' on it. by the time most people grow up, however, they have shed these wonderful abilities. whether impressed or not, most adults ask questions like 'how did you LEARN that?' and 'how many YEARS?' and 'how much FREE TIME?'. adults need (frequently, though not always) to distance themselves from the perspective of awe, which to many represents an inherently 'weak position'. by adulthood we have been rewarded by saving ourselves from momentary shock and by cloaking our wonder. however, those things always leak to the surface somehow.

the older we get, the more hesitant we are to be amazed. this is natural; we've seen a great deal, if not 'it all'. our brains' synaptic pathways have been firing since before our birth, and we have carved rutted channels that we know better than the back of our hands (or so well, we cannot KNOW them at all for they are HOW we know anything)... through the muddy prism of experience, it's a miracle that we can ever feel anything 'new'. wonder is such an amazing and mysterious thing; so rare and unsettling. looking back, how many ordinary moments can you recall from the last week (or year)... and yet you could probably write a list of the last 20 times you experienced real amazement. when we let ourselves dissolve into a moment that's complete and great, we hang on to it.

i like this yo-yo because it allows itself to straddle the line, and its creator personifies the dichotomy as well. if you've spent any time around john higby, you know that he loves yo-yoing deeply. though he's the consummate professional performer, you could TOTALLY see him ask a 12 year-old at a contest to teach him 'that last trick he did'. this yo-yo is beautiful, but it's not hard to approach. in a world of hard, metal yo-yo's built to resemble alien weaponry, this yo-yo still exudes joy, wonder, and innocence. it still feels like a toy.

every day, i get to talk to a kid (or 10) who comes in and tells me about the 'new trick' he made up... and it's elevator, or it's something like confederate flag, or it's braintwister IN REVERSE. and it doesn't matter that all of those things have been done by most every yo-yoer... they FOUND them on their own. they are 'bartholomew diaz' in a massive storm, driven on by curiosity and daring. they had to be shown at first, but if you have the capacity to give yourself over to wonder, no one can tell you that your efforts are misplaced or in vain.

with every new school i've joined, it's felt like a dry forest floor aching for fire. playing yo-yo is the sort of thing that everyone can do. it takes people out of their most elaborate imaginary-realities and gives an incentive to participate in the real one that is our birthright. kids are shocked to learn that 'hey, this IS something that i can be good at, and... somehow virtually NO ONE else here already is!' it makes me think of all the schools the world over that are just waiting for a lightning strike that ignites this dual-path toward fun and self-worth. it makes me proud of yo-yoing's history - i bet dale oliver and bob rule viewed the schoolyards in the towns they visited in the same way that greg noll viewed waimea bay.

we've all been those school-kids. in some respects, we're those school-kids every day. we wait patiently, diligently, to be amazed. we sit like spires of kindling awaiting a flame. we go to contests and seek out inspiration. we seek out videos and look for inspiration. we read half-baked blog posts and look for inspiration. whether we're learning our 1st trick or our 1,000th, all of us share the tendency to stand under the storm and believe for all we're worth that the 'bolt from the blue' is coming.

because it is... and it's not.

my friend tyler, an inspiration if ever there was one (though decidedly not a role model), turned me on to a great quote this week, by the painter chuck close:

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and somthing else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

the work, our work, is its own 'bolt from the blue'. as yo-yo players or as people, WE need to be the inspiration we wish to find in the world, and not by strutting grandly or playing in some special way... but just by 'getting to work'. a poet-friend of mine always said 'you want to be a writer? write.' there's nothing wrong with seeing a video or a freestyle that moves you, but don't con yourself into the belief that you're in an inescapable creative rut without those extrinsic catalysts. play yo-yo, bring something into being. the only thing that separates any of us from history's most creative, innovative yo-yoers, is that while we may wander around searching for inspiration or assume that it's 'coming any minute' from some great beyond... they're in a constant state of BECOMING it. they're deciding to manifest it, moment by moment.

it's sort of a paradox. we all have to be initiated. we all have to be bitten. but once we ARE, it's no longer anyone else's responsibility to be our inspiration. at some point we have to find the way to be our own.

to do so is certainly a skill, one toward which some have a more natural proclivity... but that state is within everyone's reach. i have to wonder whether the reason why more people don't see that; why (whether in our play or our everyday lives) we set up the dichotomy of 'that guy's incredible and i'll die mediocre'... is because like the adults i mentioned, we're a bit scared of amazing ourselves. we're unnerved by the idea of looking into ourselves and finding an unmeasured well of inspiration, because, i guess... 'what then?' (if there are no ceilings on our creative potential, then how much harder must we work to realize it?). or maybe we've so effectively conditioned ourselves to take our inadequacy for granted that the idea that we, ourselves could fuel our own fire seems slightly preposterous.

what if those conditioned responses could be reset? would that we whom life has taught to know better could be like the kids i teach; absolutely enamored, not of themselves, but of play, of what they're uncovering every other hour... of all that is possible and real and undiscovered.

1 comment:

Thom Bartley said...

Fond memories of this from back in the day.