19 September 2008

On Learning and Falling

Pascal Pratmarty's comment in a recent article on conflict resolution triggered some painful yet fond memories of learning ice-skating.

"Remember this: to be a learner, you’ve got to be willing to be a fool."

This will sound very odd if you've only tried skating once or twice: it's very difficult to fall. Once you figure out balance, your body clings to it, not letting your delicate elbows and knees hit that hard, cold ice.

I had learned to go forward, but people all around me were spinning, coasting backwards, jumping, and doing those awesome screech-skid stops. Envy filled me.

Your body learns these moves, not your mind, and can learn only by experiencing them. I had to push my reluctant flesh beyond what it was comfortable with. I had to force myself to fall.

It worked. Now, I can wiggle backwards around the rink, mostly avoiding collisions. I have yet to learn stopping though ...

Curiously, the pain of falling is not what inhibited me the most - you get over that fast. It was the eyes of all those people. I knew they were looking at me thinking: the fool.

I try hard, but I wish I could be a better fool.

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