Friday, June 15, 2012

Literary Interlude, "Maintaining a Sense of Wonder" Edition


I asked [Al Chung-liang] Huang how he structures his classes.

"Every lesson is the first lesson," he told me. "Every time we dance, we do it for the first time."

"But surely you cannot be starting new each lesson," I said. "Lesson number two must be built on what you taught in lesson number one, and lesson three likewise must be built on lessons one and two, and so on."

"When I say that every lesson is the first lesson," he replied, "it does not mean that we forget what we already know. It means that what we are doing is always new, because we are always doing it for the first time."

This is another characteristic of a [T'ai Chi] Master. Whatever he does, he does with the enthusiasm of doing it for the first time. This is the source of his unlimited energy. Every lesson that he teaches (or learns) is a first lesson. Every dance that he dances, he dances for the first time. It is always new, personal, and alive." 

I've never done t'ai chi...but this sounds like the kind of sense of wonder about art, life and the world around me that I try to maintain on a daily basis (to varying degrees of success; this past week has proven especially trying in that regard, for reasons I won't bore you all with here). Who would have expected a heartening confirmation of my own worldview in, of all things, a book about quantum physics?

By the way: Yes, I am reading a book about physics—a supposedly very accessible book about that scientific field. I blind-bought it a few months ago on a whim (and thanks to a friend's recommendation) and was looking for something else to read after finishing J. Hoberman's An Army of Phantoms, so I decided to pick this up from my unofficial "unread, unseen and unheard" box at home (I literally do have such a box). I'm only about 13 pages into Zukav's book, and already I feel my mind expanding in ways that remind me of how I felt months ago when I read Robin Wood's Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan...and Beyond for the first time a while back. Science was one of my weaker areas of study in school, but I always had a slightly easier time with physics than with other subjects, mostly on account of how much mathematics was involved (with the exception of calculus, I had an easy time grasping mathematics subjects in grade school)—but so far, The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Errol Morris's 1991 documentary adaptation of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time (I still need to read Hawking's book) have added more philosophical and even spiritual dimensions to the study of physics of which I was never fully aware.

Needless to say, I look forward to seeing what other bits of enlightenment there are to discover in Zukav's book.

No comments: