Tuesday, September 4, 2012
why i play yo-yo
i said i wanted to get back to basics.
so today, i was eating lunch at panera (having a bread-bowl of the french onion soup, if you want to know). i was thinking about some of my recent frustrations and the ongoing temptation to play with a bearing yo-yo after 8+ months with only the 'eh'. in my last entry, i noted that i kind of associate bearings with "ease" (and therefore, on some level, must associate wood or fixed axle with "difficulty"). whilst sipping fresh lemonade under an overcast sky, i asked myself WHY even a part of me would think or feel things in those terms.
i'm not a competitor - i have no contests to win or lose. i'm not aware of any extrinsic goal-sheet i've set up for myself; no list of tricks i'm ticking off. i'm just playing. at least so far as i know, i don't have any real criteria for either success or failure as a yo-yo player. i just play... but if that's the case, what can possibly be "easy" or "hard"... easy or hard to do what?!?!
i thought about the times when i've felt most "successful" as a yo-yo player; when it's felt most "right". i don't have a long list of titles or accolades to reflect upon, but the few things i've won (or not won) don't have any particular resonance for me in terms of when i've felt successful. i've put out some videos, some of which have been watched by a few people (some of whom have said they enjoyed them)... but even with the end-products i've really liked, i don't associate them with "success" as a yo-yo player either. by and large, the times i've felt most "successful" have occurred while i was PLAYING: casually, joyfully, and solitarily (that may or may not be a word, so how about "alone-ly").
there are definitely some specific sessions and tricks that come to mind; things that i've hit (especially on wood) that i tried and tried for before finally breaking through into some tactile understanding. but when i deconstruct those moments a bit, it's not so much "nailing" the tricks that's mattered. it's not the sensation of the yo-yo whacking the flesh of my palm after a clean fly-away... rather, it's an indescribable feeling of "connection" which i've found universally central to every momentary success i feel i've tallied.
there are those moments for which all of the universe seems to focus itself on what you're doing to enable it to work out in a way that feels "right". sometimes, it's just what you think you intended, and other times it's a big surprise. while i'm yo-yoing, i often find myself working on a sticky concept; something i think i can get or make work, but which is really outside the realm of what i fully understand. i've come to know the landscape of those emotions much better this year; the doubt, the effort, the frustration, and above all, the faith. you throw and you throw, and you think "i'm never gonna hit this"... but then suddenly, through in instant of serenity that seemingly willed itself into existence, you somehow know that you will. other times, in the midst of uncertainty, you find opportunity (hi, einstein!), and by the same amazing grace, you bust down the door into new creative territory which had never occurred to you.
i've hit so many tricks like that; discovered so many tricks like that. and i'm sure everyone has. the common thread that knits them all together is that sense of focus and connection with what i'm doing. it's as if i only get to really be 100% "at home" with myself in those moments, which are obviously ancient history as soon as the yo-yo responds.
except that the great thing is, the more you play, the more you realize that the connections aren't really gone at all. you can learn to feel your way into those moments; maybe not by straining and sweating to get there, but by relaxing and appreciating that your REASON for trying to nail the trick and the sense of calm focus which will eventually enable you to do so... are actually one and the same! it's available - it's there all the time... and realizing that makes yo-yoing much more personal, much more meditative, and ultimately way more productive.
i'm a better person because i play yo-yo. i used to doubt that sentiment; used to deflect onlookers' praise by saying stuff like "well, it's not like i'm doing anything great for society." don't get me wrong; you're not curing cancer by playing with your yo-yo, but if you can make yourself into a calmer, happier, more patient person... if you can recognize the signs of others around you who are struggling with the doubt and uncertainty of hitting this or that [metaphorical] trick and help them through that... if you can find yourself in a simple trapeze and just feel it - not just the yo-yo and the string, but the enormity of the cosmos, spinning and vibrating right along with you... i think your yo-yoing is pretty damn useful.
by practicing this stuff, you're not just idly "spending free time" as so many passers-by like to mention. you're breaking down doors within yourself. you're connecting yourself to the laws and forces which shape everything around us, from atoms to galaxies. you're shirking off the material limitations of your being and BECOMING the trick you're throwing down. within that larger framework, there's no reason why wood should be a limitation and no reason why metal should be a convenience. it's clear that the part of me that wanted this journey to be over so i can play with a bearing and hit this or that with "ease" had become a little lost and a lot disconnected from what's most important to me about playing.
whether with metal, plastic, wood, or terra cotta... i know i can find the way to play "like myself", which is the pathway to something greater. the contests are great, the sponsorships are great, the respect is great, the yo-yo's are great, and the friendships are (super) great. but as awesome as all of those things are, in the end, they're not why i keep throwing down. when i'm in the right frame of mind, lost in a trick without a care in the world for what i'm getting out of it, for a moment i don't know where i end and everything else begins. those are the moments i'm chasing, and that's why i play yo-yo.
(... *terra cotta 2013. let's do it, steve.) ;)