RECLAIMING THE BODY AS HOME:
THE BODYBASED ARTS AS CENTER OF THE ‘NEW VILLAGE'

by Nala Walla

 

MASTERY AND SLAVERY

There is nothing wrong with becoming good at something and sharing those skills. Indeed, this is how we teach and learn from each other. Neither is there anything inherently wrong with virtuosity or mastery of an art or craft. Even the most achieved guitar “master” in the world, for example, may admit that they have learned only a small fraction of what it possible on the guitar. The problem lies in the recent historical association of virtuosity and mastery with slavery.

Modern society all too often prizes extreme specialization to the exclusion of wholism and well-roundedness, and expects a person to deny their basic human right to engage in a diversity of activities during their day, and during their lifetimes. In an extreme pursuit of knowledge in their specialty, many experts reduce their focus so drastically that they lose sight of the big picture. Many contemporary ethical debates—over nuclear testing, cloning and genetic modification, weapons profiteering, etc.—are related to the myopia associated with specialization. Knowledge which floats up and away from the complexities and the realities of the grounded whole becomes dangerous, just as a knife can be either a useful tool or a destructive weapon.

We must all begin to trust the knowledge that we have innately, especially when it comes to our own bodies. The truth is, nobody knows more about how to teach or heal yourself than you do, and no master—be they guru, sensei, Ph.D, lawyer or priest—can heal or teach you anything without your cooperation. When we practice the improvisational arts, we affirm the great value—and great responsibility—of our own experience, and deep trust in ourselves.

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