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There is something very unique about life.
We may be insignificantly small in the vastness of the cosmos, but that doesn't make us irrelevant. Stars and planets may occupy space on a gigantic scale, but fundamentally they are slaves to a very limited set of laws that governs the interaction of matter. Stars may belch out the complex elements that eventually make up planets and living things, but they have no conscious choice in doing so. As big as they are, they're fundamentally acting out a script written by the infinitesimally small world of the subatomic. We on the other hand possess mass of an infinitely smaller scale--yet only we are able to divine the nature of our composition. Only we are able to introduce additional elements into the workings of our bodies to change their performance. Only we are able to take inert matter on the globe around us and melt it and reshape it into the plethora of our technology from houses to computers, from particle accelerators to poi.
Everything we touch as a species becomes a malleable tool for the unique talents of our brains and our bodies are no different. We've created a wonderfully diverse abstract language to describe the mechanics of numbers and a multitude of natural and unnatural processes. Think for a moment about all the things we manipulate in our environment: we project sound and manipulate light, we consume food and regurgitate ideas, invention, and organization. Our bodies are merely one frontier for our talent with manipulating our environment...and poi is a delightful flavor of this manipulation because it challenges us not only to tune the movements of our bodies but also an inert object attached to them.
In a process that has existed since human beings began to create fire, wheels, and tools, we work through a concept in our heads, eliminating the debris from our minds and materials along the way to sharpen our focus and efforts into breakthroughs both large and small. Whether it be a beginner's first butterfly or an engineer's mastery of a complex automobile component, the moment of breakthrough and clarity is identical. We feel the rush of accomplishment as endorphins are released and the pent up stress we've carried throughout the process is relaxed away in an avalanche of satisfaction. We are a species that thrives on conquering the complex--on realizing the previously impossible.
I deeply believe that this is the most fundamentally human thing we do and it manifests in such breathtaking diversity as to constantly challenge our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. We create art, political movements, scientific theories, performances, speeches, clever jokes, goals, communities, and countless other artifacts of accomplishment both metaphysical and physical as to be miraculous in our depth of field and talent for adaptation.
For me the thrill is in realizing the goal of assembling a host of disparate ideas and tools into a new result that was previously unrealized. It happens for me in programming and in building projects, songs, and performances. My body and mind are yet more tools to harness to the yoke of accomplishing these goals and poi does so in a way that seems so uniquely suited to my makeup as to feel tailor-made for me. I deeply envy the natural philosophers of 15th century Europe that set about cataloging the laws of the natural world: Newton, Hooke, Liebnitz, and the multitude of others whose exploration of the previously known but untested and unordered resulted in one of the rarest breakthroughs in scientific and mathematical knowledge in all of human history. In their time, a desire to explore the natural world and a modest degree of schooling (granted by our standards) were the most important credentials one could have. Now our knowledge has specialized to the point that such discoveries are infinitely rarer and require the dedication of untold resources, time, and energy to accomplish.
But with poi, I feel much like I've been given a small window into that world. In my hours of practice, theory, and refinement of movement, I feel as though the only limits to discovery are the hours I can devote to the pursuit and the limits of my own imagination. There is something tremendously liberating about that...discovery is no farther away than my next practice session. The hours that I spend pushing my body to accomplish that which I see in my mind...to plow through whittling away the extraneous movements of my body, train myself to recognize the minute accelerations of the tool as it courses closer and closer to the path I envision, and finally see the result realized in the mirror or video are among the most gratifying I've spent in the past few years. It's a thrill that few things can match...and a certain knowledge that I can at least modestly master elements of the world around me. Most importantly myself.
Spinning is a decidedly simple and silly pursuit, there's no doubt about it. My thrill is little more than a game or bauble in the decidedly vast cosmos of human accomplishment, but the satisfaction I derive from it is immeasurable. We all have our goals to accomplish in life, no matter how modest or vast. And this is the one that most delights me to tackle.
And that's why I spin...