In advance of a group field trip expedition, we went to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science to see “Lucy’s Legacy: Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia.” There were many amazing aspects to this exhibit, not least of which was the pièce de resistance, the 3.2 million year old skeletal remains of “Lucy” herself, an early hominid.
The story of how the archeologists happened upon the world’s most famous fossil was inspiring, humorous, and very moving. What touched me even more is that all of the objects in the exhibit are truly part of the national treasure of Ethiopia. I was struck by the extraordinary generosity and trust of whatever powers-that-be in that country, who approved sending these priceless artifacts on a six-year, round-the-world tour, so that their national and cultural story could be told. Controversy surrounded the tour: should these objects leave the country? Are they too fragile to travel? Can adequate security be provided? Then, my irreverent mind imagined the scene of the people hired to pack everything for shipping. Are the pieces numbered? Do they come with a diagram for reassembly? Was Lucy transported in bubble-wrap? Do they save all the containers, or get them new when it’s time for Lucy to move on? Mercifully, I stopped short of completing my “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but it did make me giggle. I also felt appreciation for the countless people behind the scenes who packed, sorted, insured, transported, negotiated, arranged, displayed, dusted, filmed, wrote, and otherwise contributed to produce the exhibit. There’s a lot invested in preserving and transporting those artifacts!
Artifacts, however valuable, are ultimately leftovers, just found objects. When they are discovered, the artifacts provide evidence upon which a story or explanation about the objects can be created. We want to know the origins, and we want to assign meaning. One can wonder what archeologists from the future will find and surmise about us, and our lives!
Similarly, muscular tensions, aching joints, and other physical limitations provide evidence about your life. Your habitual patterns of action and use of your own body can leave artifacts—leftovers– in today’s experience. (If you get quiet for a moment, you might discover evidence of the local pollen count, this morning’s traffic, or that last phone call.) Habitual patterns of thinking and emotion also leave their effects, seen in your body. While some people see evidence of defects to be fixed, the Feldenkrais Method has another viewpoint. The Method does not judge the artifact, and does not attach a story to it. The artifact is information, something to be curious about, to explore, to relate to a coherent whole: and then to create different possibilities for an improved future.
What artifacts have you discovered, preserved, transported?
(This piece was originally published in the Feldenkrais Center of Houston newsletter 04/14/2008)