Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Wine Before Its Time

Perhaps you remember an old television ad from the 1970's that swept through the culture and served as the punchline for a whole string of gags. It's Orson Welles, as spokesman for Paul Masson vineyards, in stentorian tones: "We will sell no wine before its time."

It's hard to imagine this ad appearing anywhere except YouTube today. In the 1970's, the Cold War was at its height, and baby boomers and youth culture were hitting their stride. If Dr. Strangelove might blow up the world at any moment, why wait for anything? Do it now, do a lot of whatever "it" is, and do it fast! Paul Masson and Orson Welles seemed to be taking a noble stand. "Here's one thing that can't be rushed. This is worth waiting for."

In the 21st century, time has continued to compress because of technology. We can measure durations in nanoseconds, informally defined as the length of time it takes the car behind you to honk after the traffic light turns green. Anything we desire, it seems, can be delivered to us instantly: streaming video, mobile phones, instant messaging, fast food, speed dating. We can measure bandwidth, download time, pixels of resolution, quantity, volume, speed. Problems arise when we use quantitative measures for qualitative experiences, like comfort, or delight, or contentment. It's apples and oranges, or perhaps more aptly, Pinot Noir and Samuel Adams.

In the mid-1980's, Natalie Goldberg wrote a neat little book about writing and the creative process, entitled Writing Down the Bones. Having heard of the book for years, I recently had a chance to pick it up to read it. I was particularly struck by this passage, in the chapter called "Composting."

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this "composting." Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.

Each Feldenkrais lesson takes our sensory experience and sifts it for awhile through our consciousness and our whole bodies. In the Feldenkrais Method, issues of quality and individual experience are our touchstones. People often ask, "What does this DO?" "What will I get out of this?" Those are fair questions, and the answers need time to emerge. Ours is not a linear path, and there's no "one size fits all" outcome. Perhaps I'll start telling people that my classes are fertilizer-- compost -- for your body, your intellect, your Self. Even the smallest seed in your garden can grow and blossom. When you don't rush for a result -- sell a wine before its time -- it's amazing how quickly the fruit of improvement can appear.

What do you rush?
What could use some compost?

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