Toward

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Maori Mask

Watching a New Zealand rugby team perform the haka before a match, Paloma finds herself barely breathing in amazement at what she sees on the television screen. In a later journal entry, she writes this:

I’d noticed him right from the start (a Maori player), probably because of his height to begin with but then because of the way he was moving. A really odd sort of movement, very fluid but above all very focused, I mean very focused within himself. Most people, when they move, well they just move depending on whatever’s around them. At this very moment, Maman just went by in the direction of the front door, and you can tell from the way she’s moving; she is headed toward. She’s going out shopping, and in fact she already is out, her movement anticipating itself…when we move, we are in a way de-structured by our movement toward something; we are both here and at the same time not here because we’re already in the process of going elsewhere, if you see what I mean.

To stop de-structuring yourself, you have to stop moving altogether. Either you move and you’re no longer whole, or you’re whole and you can’t move. But that player, when I saw him go out onto the field, I could tell there was something different about him. While the others’ dance gestures went toward their adversaries and the entire stadium, this player’s gestures stayed inside him…and that gave him an unbelievable presence and intensity.

So I watched the game attentively, constantly on the lookout for the same thing: compact moments where a player became his own movement without having to fragment himself by heading towardAnd I saw them! I saw them in every phase of the game: with a player who’d find the right speed without thinking any more about the goal, by concentrating on his own movement and running as if in a state of grace. But none of them came near the perfection of the great Maori player who was running without moving, leaving everyone else behind him.’*

Paloma’sheading toward is Mr. Alexander’s ‘End-Gaining.’ My wish for each of us today is a moment when we are no longer getting ahead of ourselves, and can ‘become our own movement.’ No fragmentation or de-structuring required!  It’s an Alexander-Technique-worthy pursuit—-

*The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery, 2008. Europa Editions, translated from the French by Alison Anderson.

(With thanks to Barbara H., who mentioned Barbery’s book, reminding me I was due for a re-read.)

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