In my reading of FM Alexander’s works recently, I was reminded very strongly of the supreme importance of experimentation. Alexander writes:
“We must always remember that the vast majority of human beings live very narrow lives, doing the same thing and thinking the same thoughts day by day, and it is this fact that makes it so necessary that we should acquire conscious control of the mental and physical powers as a whole, for we otherwise run the risk of losing that versatility which is an essential factor in their development.” *
The phrase in this that stopped me in my tracks was that first one, “the vast majority of human beings live very narrow lives, doing the same thing and thinking the same thoughts day by day…” Is this me? I asked myself.
Is this you? And even if it is true of me or you, does it really matter if we do and think the same things day by day?
Why it matters.
I am about to say something controversial. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if you decide to spend the next decade or three slumping. It isn’t going to kill you. With only a few potential exceptions, the way you sit or walk isn’t going to be a life or death issue.
But it is a quality of life issue.
If we choose to do the same things in the same way day after day, or worse, if we don’t even realise we are doing the same things in the same way day after day, we risk dulling our ability to be versatile. We lose our skill at rolling with the punches. Which means that when we experience some sort of (possibly externally initiated) form of sudden change, like an injury or illness or sudden redundancy from work, we struggle to know what to do.
Even if we don’t experience anything so major, if we stay content with doing and thinking the same stuff day by day, we risk a far more subtle kind of injury – the dulling of our enjoyment of things.
Alexander’s definition of happiness is the kind of absorption seen in a child doing something that interests it. And having watched my own son, what I have noticed is that this absorption is most apparent when he is experimenting.
He doesn’t build the same structures with his Lego, slavishly following the instruction book. He builds the bricks that way once, takes it apart, and then goes freeform. He experiments. He plays. He messes up, gets frustrated, pulls it apart, then tries again. And each thing he builds is fascinating.
According to Alexander, versatility is important. And we build versatility by playing and experimenting. We build it by getting things wrong, getting frustrated, going back to the beginning and trying again.
So. Tell me: what will you experiment with this week?
* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.65.
Image by Afonso Lima, stock.xchng