Friday, February 18, 2011
it's interesting. my mom has bought me some of my coolest yo-yo's. i guess that's not that interesting, when you also consider that she's bought me some of my coolest skateboards, action figures, clothes, and meals over the years as well. moms rock.
i got 3 yo-yo's for xmas in 2005. back into playing yo-yo hardcore (and also, evidently, 'for good'), everyone i knew was oscillating somewhere between degrees of mild annoyance and outright rage at the amount of time i was playing yo-yo. but when the holidays rolled around, suddenly, everyone had the perfect gift idea. that's one of the nice things about being a yo-yo player - if all else fails, it's a great 'default present'.
my mom didn't treat it like a default present, however. she was out to find the newest, baddest return-top on the block, and found it at the now-defunct extreme spin webstore in the form of the hspin pyro. when i unwrapped it from its tube and threw it down (with a beautiful, hollow 'zzzzzzzzng' noise that no other yo-yo can approximate), the first thing my dad said was 'so can it do 'walk the dog'?' i knew he was kidding, but part of me cringed - like, 'you understand what this is FOR, right dad?' ironically, he understood better than i.
the pyro was, upon its release, arguably the most solid, consistent, and BEAUTIFUL production yo-yo ever made, and it set the stage for how to hype releases for the next few years. to be honest, the oxys probably played better, and the fluchs was perhaps a tad more stylish... but the pyro had everything in one [exceedingly wide] package, and the fact that its ads featured willowy models staring wistfully into the 'soul of yo' didn't hurt its reception with the drooling late-teen boys-club that is yo-yoing.
i'd had metal yo-yo's before this one. however, this is probably the first one i ever owned which i was frightened to throw. it was such a pretty thing that i felt intimidated spinning it so close to the ground. though i gradually shed that inhibition (ask any of my main yo-yo's), #118 remains alarmingly devoid of marks. a couple tiny pinpricks, and that's all i've generated. it'll probably stay that way, too, since i have so many that i now prefer. it's funny that i have several yo-yo's in nice condition like this, amidst brothers who look like they get thrown in a war zone. and it makes me consider that dichotomy which besets and vexes all yo-yoers at some point - i'll call it 'the allegory of the dog'.
to walk or not to walk, that is the question - whether 'tis nobler to suffer the dings and scuffs of outrageous concrete... or take arms against a sea of pain-in-the-ass kids who keep asking you to walk the dog, even though I WAS JUST DOING YUUKI-FREAKING SLACK RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM!!!
japanese swordsmanship repeatedly references two types of swords: the life-taking sword and the life-giving sword. they're not weapons, but metaphors for levels of a warrior's understanding. obviously, swords are sharp and pointy, and they're made for hacking people up. people who try to convince you that a sword is not built/designed for that express purpose are either deluding themselves... or else need a better sword. swords are built for taking life, and so are warriors (at least at first).
we devise unbeatable techniques, hone razor-sharp reflexes, and practice until we can barely stand (sound familiar?)... all to the end of refining our skill such that no other can overcome it. but the more you practice, and the more of life you see, the more you come to terms with the truth that you can't 'take' it all. the more you prepare for the 'other's' inevitable attack, the more you realize that no other drove you down this path; you drove yourself. you realize that the sword's truest function is not really in the efficacy of its cut, but in its ability to protect and preserve life. and in realizing this, the swordsman arrives at a level of meaning and understanding never approached by technique, alone.
i think it's true of yo-yo players, too. i see some kids practicing with this sort of fury; as though they're angry with the yo-yo for challenging them. i see yo-yoers on stage, in contest halls, or in schoolyards whipping the toy around like a medieval weapon, with an intensity that could melt stone, begging anyone and everyone to observe and be awed. and i think this is good, and that it's important to experience this feeling and understand. but i also think it's important to shed it.
it seems to me that mostly, people try to do things powerfully because they feel 'compelled' to do so, and that's not really power at all. it's true of every walk of life. we all meet people every day who seek to exert themselves upon the world or define themselves against it. but the guys (and girls) who play with real power are simply in command of their art. they don't need to impress anybody, don't need to play like someone else, and don't need to hide under a mantle of epicness. playing yo-yo isn't epic; knowing yourself is.
walk the dog is hard for some people; maybe the hardest trick out there. and it's not because of any technical difficulty (obviously), but because it asks the player to 'lower' themselves - to step off of a pedestal which we spend so much of our waking life polishing. 'i've worked on this for so long, and i can do all this STUFF, and this yo-yo costs $100! and you in your ignorance want me to do the one simple, stupid yo-yo trick you know???' dings sand out nicely, i promise. if you're afraid to ding your $100 yo-yo, to whom does it belong? if your skill is such that it chains you to your pedestal, than its more a burden than a gift.
most of the best yo-yoers out there are pretty happy people; the sort of folks who would not only walk the dog if a kid asked, but literally think nothing of it. and it's not because those people have 50 more shiny yo-yo's in a box at home (some of em might have just the one in their pocket). rather it's because they've come to terms with the truth of what they do. they've spent years - in some cases, a lifetime - battling their way through the knotted jungle of ephemeral geometry which we call home, not to impress some other, but to impress (or discover) themselves. the yo-yo teaches you who you are; it carves you out of rigid granite, throw by throw. the sword GIVES YOU life.
it's said that when you start on the journey, the mountains are mountains and the sea is the sea. then, after achieving some knowledge, the mountains are no longer mountains and the sea is no longer the sea. once you arrive at the truth, the mountains are again mountains and the sea is once again, the sea.
when you start out as a yo-yoer, you're just a kid playing yo-yo. then somewhere along the way, you become a superstar. sometime later (hopefully) you are, once again, just a kid playing yo-yo... which is a wonderful thing to be.