April 30, 2014

Friday Class: Empty Space

Four years.  Every Friday.  From 8:00PM unitl  ~.  Chinese language, art, history, science, philospohy - and Kung Fu/Tai Qi.

We would sit with tea at hand and Teacher would begin..."Does anyone have a question?"  And so our weekly lesson would begin.  The classes ended 7 1/2 years ago but the lessons have not stopped. 

I recently took a look at my notes - 2 completely full spiral notebooks - and I noticed something.  The notes have a pattern.  In the beginning, the notes are sparse and appear a bit rushed.  The Chinese  characters are very large and ill-formed (out of balance and often missing strokes) - like you might expect from a child struggling to absorb and make sense of the outside world.  Over time the notes filled in, became more and more organized and the characters began to look a bit more recognizable.  Eventually, the pages are absolutely packed.  Every inch of the page is crammed with verbatim notes, characters, stories, explanations and navigational instructions to guide you through the thicket of thoughts.  Then...the notes begin to lessen.  They are still very well organized but they are no longer verbatim.  The narrative fades into reference and interpretation.  The characters are generally well-formed but they are joined by small pictures - abstract doodles that somehow reflect the topics of the day.  The final lessons have almost no notes at all.  There is a date and perhaps a sentence or two, maybe a drawing and lots of empty space.  The last page of my notes is blank -

The notes, and the pattern reflect our forms.  We begin with the pattern - the specific set of movements that comprise the form.  At first, our movements are big, clumsy and uncoordinated.  Our mind struggles to remember the pattern as our body struggles to execute what little we can remember.  Over time, we refine our actions.  We add skills, develop strength and improve our coordination.  The form becomes more organized and structured as our mind is packed with the details of every action complete with navigational arrows.  Then, the arrows fade.  The form remains but it is no longer verbatim.  It is cleaner, smoother, less cluttered.  The actions are full, well-formed, and balanced but there is an additional element - an abstract intangible that is our own within the form.  And lots of empty space.