Saturday, October 8, 2011

yo-yo #91: luke hildebrand 1-piece looper

luke hildebrand is a good friend from eastern virginia. he goes by 'the wood dwarf' on the boards, and i've been fortunate to have known him for years. like a lot of our community (or at least the most interesting cross-section thereof), yo-yoing isn't the alpha and omega of his life; it's just one more interesting thing that he does. a talented visual artist and sculptor, his art always seems to exude a kind of 'rough-hewn' texture with bold 'woodblock-print' contrast. so i found it kind of amusing when i unwrapped this yo-yo, which he sent me this summer.

it is tiny - among the smallest yo-yo's i own. luke carved it from a single piece of cocobolo, the density of which is ample to provide it comparative heft, but it still feels delicate and fine.

i've just got the one, so despite the fact that it's obviously designed in the style of an archaic looper, after a few minutes of 0a, i tend to gravitate to some of my standard fixed axle string tricks. i've spent a lot of time trying modern 1a on old-timey yo-yo's. sometimes it feels like an appropriate challenge, and other times it just feels obscene. maybe it's the fact that this yo-yo is about as thick as my middle finger, or that the gap is about 2 string-widths, max, but trying to force technical string tricks on this guy feels decidedly silly. it IS fun to work on basics with it - trapeze, eli hops, boingy. the gap is so hilariously unforgiving that flying away out of a clean combo feels decidedly satisfying; as though you've somehow 'attained something'.

it occurs to me that, on some level, this is always our approach, in virtually every pursuit. sometimes we feel it after hacking our way through a particularly dense 1a jungle or after having finally mastered a concept that's eluded us for years. invariably though, after we 'level up', the experience feels less significant to us than we expected. we break through a creative ceiling only to discover that the skill-set that kept us up at night is really nothing so special at all. it just becomes a part of 'where we are'. before we can do it, it's something intimidating and awesome - afterward, it's been pulled into the gravity of our personal sphere, like a possession we couldn't previously afford.

in some cases, our response is innocuous enough. just a pleasant exhalation or a fist-pump in an empty room. to work hard and then delight in the result of our efforts is the natural rhythm of how we progress through most every endeavor. however, to begin to EXPECT reward or recognition outside ourselves - to crave it to the point of belittling others or perpetually self-aggrandizing - is to mutate the natural into a sort of compulsive illness.

i find it disconcertingly funny when members of our community put on airs as though what they're doing is so phenomenally hard or so incredibly inventive. i have nothing against personal challenges. i don't even take issue with the ephemeral glory that follows overcoming them. there's a lot of insecure self-obsession in our little community though, which i think is counter-productive and best rooted out. (it's worth noting that if you have to ask whether you have an ego/insecurity problem, you probably do... and if you're sure you don't, you almost certainly do.)

i don't think you should ever develop a big head about your yo-yoing. is there anything more ridiculous than some child (adult or otherwise) blathering on about how they're going to dominate in 2012 or set the yo-yo world on its ear with their new video? that's about like setting the 'cake-baking world' on it's ear (actually that would be substantially more lucrative). pretty much all the yo-yoer's i know treat their art as a deeply personal pursuit. you might have outward goals (especially if you're competitive), but you don't work hard to attain something without so much as within. so, who can you dominate, really? what do you think you deserve? whose attention do you crave?

make-believe swagger is not strength, and momentary self-deprecation is not true humility (especially when its actual objective is to elicit the predictable reaction of 'no no, you ARE amazing!' from one's 'yo-yo fans' - please).

i think we need to escape this cycle within ourselves. it's hard, because how do you push yourself if you're NOT actively trying to attain something of value ('mastery' of a trick, ca$h-money, slaps on the back from collectible internet-friends)? is the yo-yoing itself EVER powerful enough to be its own reward, or is there always something ulterior attached to it? i reiterate a question i asked much earlier: would you continue to yo-yo if you couldn't get online?

i wish we could play yo-yo without the implied carrot of the golden loving cup or recognition-as-vindication. i feel as though these two [generalized] archetypes of playing for extrinsic 'attainment' attach to essentially all of the darkest and dumbest behaviors in our community. you're playing with a yo-yo. you're not curing disease, comforting sudanese refugees, or even wiping down someone's lunch table. if anyone, ever, happens to see your playing, take something positive from it, and relate it to you, that one instance should surpass your expectations for recognition (and you should let it fly off of you the moment it touches your ears).

there are a thousand brilliant, wonderful reasons to throw down, and virtually all of them happen within you.

thanks again, luke.

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