Back in the day...Recently, I was watching a documentary series on the Roosevelts…okay, more like, it was on in the background while I was doing ten other things. Anyways, I noticed the narrators would frequently read various letters that provided insights into these historical figures. I was struck by the mastery of language demonstrated in these letters. People were so articulate and passionate in their everyday correspondence. Lacking emoticons, 140 character limits, memes, and status updates, people were so much more adept at utilizing language to convey the depth of their thoughts and emotions.
And here we are today, all like OMG, WTF, LOL, #nomnomnom...see what I did their?
Jesus. I just died a little writing that…seriously how bad is that “their” killing you, right now?
There are hoards of self-proclaimed grammar-Nazis are out there, but as far as non-writers/journalists/lyricists, it's rare to see someone really pour themselves into language.
The Disappearance of Fluency And in all this I realized the current state of physical culture has transformed in a similar way. Not so long ago, physicality was ingrained into daily living. Life demanded that we be strong, mobile, and adaptable. As a culture we valued physical competence, just as we wielded the power of language with great respect. Before internet shorthand and auto-correct we were forced to slow down and compose our thoughts with care. Before globo gyms and cubicles, we trained / worked / played / lived in complex, sensory-rich environments. Now the media spoon-feeds us our thoughts and technology cradles us in a protective bubble, fragilizing our bodies.
We are losing our fluency in both language and movement.
Language fluency is essential for communicating the full spectrum of our thoughts and emotions. We need movement fluency to recognize what position our body needs to be in and organize it with seamless control. Fluency lies in the details; requiring awareness of what’s going on and having the tools to respond accordingly.
I don't mean to sound like the prophet of doom or (worse yet) some old curmudgeon recanting the glory days. We're nowhere near the point of no return for either aptitude. In fact, I'm optimistic that we're on the brink of a major cultural shift when it comes to movement. I teach fluency in the language of movement, from the alphabet to the great American novel. Here's an overview:
- Learn the alphabet. The ABC's of movement lie in basic patterns - squat, hinge, lunge, gait, push, pull, rotate. Only 7 letters to learn but the possibilities are limitless.
- Start building your foundation vocabulary. Organize those patterns into basic actions. The action of moving a box from the floor to the shelf: hinge-rotate-push. Execute even the simplest of movements with crisp printing or cursive, not chicken-scratch.
- Simple sentences. When you prepare to go to a new country, you learn what you need to know. Gain movement competence in practical endeavors first - the tasks everyday life asks of you.
- Tell a story. The next layer is expression and adaptability. Stories are personal and nuanced. They captivate us by conveying history, morality, and emotion. They require a deeper understanding of language. Movement fluency means your movements speak volumes for you. What will you tell the world?
- Fluency is not perfection. Our practice of movement is not subject to any arbitrary standards or agenda. Do not confuse fluency with the myth of perfection - perfection is striving for more while accepting where you are. Let curiosity and self-care motivate you to create your unique movement dialect.
Why Fluency Matters Of course, developing fluency means a lot of sucking in the beginning. You’ll be virtually incoherent and you’ll flounder. We HATE this very necessary step in development. This is exactly why as kids we can’t wait to grow up, we (Americans) don’t prioritize learning other languages, and we are a culture obsessed with “JUST DO IT” fitness. Logically, we know it's only temporary and worth it...but it's so much nicer to chill in our comfort zones. You can go to another country armed with a few words hoping the natives speak your tongue; you can perform the same gym routine for years. In either case you’ll be effective enough to get by, but you’ll also be leaving a lot of potential growth on the table.
I look at like this: we’re all just on cosmic trip on a rock hurling through space. From that perspective, what else is there to do besides grow, exchange happiness, and create a rich existence.
Before I paint a unicorn atop a shimmering rainbow, let me me just concede that life is messy, chaotic, overwhelming, unfair, often times dull and uncomfortable, occasionally it will straight up fucking break you. And at the end of the day whether you’re living the dream or you’re drowning, life is absolutely too precious to sleep walk though. Language and movement are universal. They are our vehicles to connect with one another and the environment. Respect your tools, they allow you to be you. Speak, write, move with intentionality and awareness. Just a reminder of some good practices for a better human experience.