Tuesday, February 24, 2009

40/55 Making Room for the New

10:30 am with Danielle

The room started at 108 degrees and 35% humidity, and I thought that might cause some problems.  But Danielle got the heat under control pretty quickly.  And the class settled into a nice, hot, fast paced class.

I got the stretch through my sternum again in Standing Bow, so that wasn't a fluke.  I also came into class a little bit concerned about my knee, because I can feel the outside tending starting to rub a little again.  In Fixed Firm, I made extra sure to get my feet pointed further back, and didn't go all the way down.  It put an intense stretch again into my ankles, and even my knees, so I think its probably a good correction for now.  And I'll go all the way down again sometime later.  This pose is definitely one where ambition and desire can be the ruin of me.

Today, Gates says that one of the main reasons for clearing out clutter from our lives (both stuff, and mental clutter) is that it clears the way for new stuff and for better ideas.  I think a farmer would likely have an intuitive understanding of this -- Gates is basically saying that we need to clear the field before we can sow it for new crops.

This is obvious when it comes to cleaning out closets and drawers, but less so when dealing with ideas.  When I was in ninth grade, our math teacher made an offhand comment about how some result was pretty obvious so long as parallel lines didn't meet.  But if they did meet, then the problem was much more interesting.  I remember how viciously hostile everyone in the class was to the idea that parallel lines might meet.  Of course they don't meet.  How could he possibly suggest that this was not some sort of eternal truth?   Our little ninth grade minds could not even entertain the idea that this "truth" was just an assumption or a definition, and that we could assume or define the idea of "parallel" in other ways.  But when you can entertain the other possibilities, then other types of math become possible, and this leads to a kind of freedom in this realm of ideas.

Of course, I don't think theoretical math is the stuff that is foremost on Gates' mind.  A similar move can happen simply through travel and the experience of other cultures.   When I first went to China, I was disturbed by the public toilets being little more than holes in the floor.  But why not?  The are easy to clean and cheap.  The main obstacle for me now is simply a cultural one:  Westerners don't rest by sitting down on their heels with feet flat on the floor for hours at a time.  But you can see Chinese people doing this in front of just about every active storefront in any smaller town.  So, in the end, our preference for chairs, which causes all sorts of back problems, also makes us think of toilets as "right" and other alternatives as somehow backward or primitive.  This is an area where it was pretty easy for me to shed off my prejudices, but it also I think points in the direction of the sort of thing that Gates is getting at.

The question of course is, if I was a bit inflexible about plumbing when in my late early 40s, and totally inflexible about basic math "truths" when I was 14, then what other myriad ideas, both large and small are holding me spellbound in ways both important and unimportant?

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