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Being special

Sometimes in yoga class, we balance on one foot. If we're all balancing with no problem, the instructor suggests we try it with our eyes closed. "It's much, much harder," she says. Have tried, can confirm.

This came up in the movie Roma, which I watched the other day. The protagonist--young housekeeper Cleo--is trying to get in touch with the asshole father of her baby, who's doing some kendo-style training out in the back of beyond. They're all chanting Japanese numbers in unison and taking stances, and then a guest sensei-type says he's going to show them something impressive, and he asks for a blindfold. Blindfolded, he balances on one foot with his arms forming a diamond over his head.

"You think this is nothing much?" he says to the trainees and those watching. "You all try." So everyone starts trying, and everyone's losing their balance and hopping around and falling over. Except Cleo. In a long-distance shot of her up on the ridge, with other onlookers, you see her balancing perfectly. It's just for a moment.

... Annnnd it doesn't really have any significance? The movie just keeps going along.

I was telling the story of this to the healing angel, and she immediately tried doing the thing--of course, who wouldn't! But she really, really wanted to be able to do it, and this was making me think how driven people are to have external markers of specialness, regardless of any meaning or context. If she could do it, or if she gets to be able to do with with practice, what will that mean... other than that she can balance in a manner that very few people can do? Is that in itself an accomplishment? I mean, if it makes you happy and doesn't harm others, I don't have a problem with it, but.

... Which is also making me think of an assignment the students had at the program I help out at (not the jail, the other one)--they had to talk about the use of the word "special" as an insult. One of the other volunteers went so far as to say that no one ever wants to be special in any way; everyone just wants to blend in. I don't think this is how most people feel; I think a lot of people would like to be special if it's a good kind of special and not a bad kind, especially in societies that set a high value on individualism. But maybe I'm conflating good-specialness with excellence.

... Just random thoughts. I haven't posted in a while and wanted to share something, and that's what came out.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/901046.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2018 10:16 pm (UTC)
When balancing, you use three systems: sight, pressure on the soles of your feet, and proprioception, the sense that detects where your body parts are. You generally need at least two to stand. Hence, in a physical sometimes the doctor has you stand and then close your eyes to test the last two.

One foot would make it more interesting.
Dec. 22nd, 2018 11:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah--you're cutting the feedback from the soles of your feet in half, so it's like you're trying to balance using just one-and-a-half systems.
Dec. 22nd, 2018 10:23 pm (UTC)
an astute assessment. thanks! i tried it.
; )
Dec. 22nd, 2018 11:05 pm (UTC)
How'd you do?
Dec. 23rd, 2018 03:07 am (UTC)
; ))
not very well.. eyes must be important!
Dec. 23rd, 2018 12:47 am (UTC)
Balancing on one foot, eyes shut, was one of the first things the physical therapist had me start doing. It's HARD. Then he starting having me do it on platforms that jiggled and flipped around and I just about lost it.
Dec. 23rd, 2018 01:31 am (UTC)
Man that guy sounds like a sadist! Did it help in the end?
Dec. 23rd, 2018 02:18 am (UTC)
Yes, my balance improved dramatically. I'm still clumsy, though, so I still tip over all the time!
Dec. 23rd, 2018 11:42 am (UTC)
I just watched Roma last night; what did you think? I liked it a lot, but read a review that noted you don't really hear Cleo's voice. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/theres-a-voice-missing-in-alfonso-cuarons-roma
Dec. 23rd, 2018 04:21 pm (UTC)
I agree with mallorys-camera [sorry, can't make HTML work], who said in this entry, "I’m tired of male film directors doing the nostalgic memory thing with saintly childhood female caregivers. I’m sure if you gave the saintly childhood female caregiver a camera crew, you’d get an entirely different movie."

I disagree that Cleo doesn't have a voice. Or rather, maybe she doesn't have much voice in the literal sense of chance to speak (though when she's alone with Adela they joke around freely). But I feel like we can read her moods and her opinions in her face and her posture. But maybe that's me reading into her?

It's a valuable criticism to note that oppressed people are often portrayed as silent (and to ask what that means--is that an assumption that they're complicit or accepting in their oppression?) But have two responses. But this film was directed by someone in the oppressor class, and it would have been false at best or appropriatory at worst if he'd tried to portray Cleo from the inside. It could be that we as an audience are, like mallorys-camera says, tired of having the victim portrayed by the victimizer, but that's saying we want a different film, and I think you have to look at a film for what it intends to do and whether it succeeds at that--primarily (you can still say you want a different film, but if you're discussing the film at hand, then you have to turn to the film at hand). And second, I think it's wrong for a reviewer to expect from all people everywhere should be expressive the way that they themselves are. Not all people are verbally voluble, but that doesn't mean they don't have ways of making their feelings known.... It's complicated in this film because Cleo **isn't** free to say what she feels to, for instance, her employers or the doctors and so on. But there are cultures (speaking both in broad and narrow terms) where it's not customary to analyze and express one's feelings verbally--but that doesn't mean people are inexpressive. I'm sure we all know people who have no trouble expressing their happiness or discontent without saying "I'm happy" or "I'm angry."

Edited at 2018-12-23 01:27 pm (UTC)
Dec. 23rd, 2018 08:15 pm (UTC)
Random but yet profound thoughts. I have hard time balancing myself on my foot with my eyes open, not sure if I can do it with them closed. And my instructor tells me that I dont have center of gravity and that's why I cannot balance. Go figure! :)
Dec. 23rd, 2018 08:17 pm (UTC)
I can't balance for more than a couple seconds on one foot with eyes closed. But maybe it's something that improves with practice!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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