Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What's the Point of Balancing on a 4-inch Beam?

This is the question my brother asked in a recent Twitter and Blog Entry. I started to leave a comment on his blog just now, responding to his entry, but decided my comment was getting too long. So I figured I'd post it here instead. I invite you to read his entry first: Board Balancer.

I don't really have a clear articulation about the relationship between art and sports, but I do think there is one. And I'm not sure that "producing" a "product" of some kind is necessarily the dividing line. There are too many arts where nothing remains after it is performed.

I'm aware, in particular, of the sand mandala in the Buddhist tradition in which an artist creates a most beautiful work of art with sand--and then destroys it.

The thing is, I really do relate to Cyen's rant--what's it all for, basically? But I feel really hesitant to go with it all the way. Maybe especially because he mentions an Olympic sport which is different in my opinion from professional sports (a bloated business for sure!).

But I see the Olympics and gymnastics in particular, say, as a celebration of what the human body is capable of doing. More than that, though, it's also a celebration of the human imagination caught up with the human body. A gymnast on the balance beam doesn't merely stand on a four-inch beam, but she also bends, and leaps, and flips, and gracefully traverses that beam in every way she can imagine.

Most people trudge through life never imagining anything can be different than it already is. But a gymnast takes the same human body and puts it in astounding positions on the thinnest slip of wood.

That makes me want to ask: what else is possible?

Back in the 80s, Joseph Campbell urged folks to follow their bliss. I imagine, for whatever reason, that a gymnast's bliss is balancing on a four-inch beam. It's not my bliss, but I celebrate that it is her's. I'm hopeful that if we were all given the chance to follow our bliss, then the world would be a more beautiful place.

It's a totally non-utilitarian view of things, I admit, dear Brother of mine. :)


Mrs. M said...

I don't know about the balance beam in particular, but when I'm in the habit of exercising, my world feels a bit more balanced. It's so important to me to acknowledge that I'm not just a spiritual or mental being, but that I'm also a physical being. There's a lot of joy in that for me.

Mrs. M said...

And it's OK, I'm confident that your butt lights up, too. =)