Today I was listening to an NPR show. In it a doctor was being interviewed who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro essentially naked. He did this to prove a point to himself and to others.
He theorized that the human body is far more highly adaptable to external conditions than we give it credit for. He looked at our ancestors, people who not only survived, but prospered in environmental conditions that seem horrendously harsh by our standards today. He reasoned that there must be a forgotten mechanism in our bodies that would allow any of us to, for instance, walk barefoot in snow or on hot sand.
Hold that thought for a moment.
When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore I remember purposefully wearing light jackets in the winter when everyone around me were bundled up with heavy coats, scarfs, earmuffs and whatnot. I did this because I was in tune with my body and only needed what I felt was the appropriate amount of protection from the cold. For instance, I never worn a undershirt because it was too warm. In fact, I don’t wear one even to this day. I believed that if I didn’t allow my body to feel at least some discomfort then it couldn’t adjust to effectively accommodate changes. By allowing this constant adjustment my body was, and perhaps still is able to accept environmental extremes that others find uncomfortable.
I still believe that and will wear only what keeps me from being too uncomfortable, not what keeps me comfortable.
Now, back to the naked mountain climbing doctor. This guy’s theory, which he used himself and a mountain in Africa to validate, is in essence, what my thoughts were some 40 or so years ago. Was I some genius? Hardly. It was just an observation that I made and then I integrated into the way I live. The difference between me and the naked doctor, besides the amount of clothing we wear and the fact that he’s a Phd and I’m not, is that he wrote it down so that others could benefit. I was a kid and had no such foresight. I’m a lot (emphasis on ‘a lot’) older and augurably wiser now, so I’ll put into writing more of these observations as I go.
What brought all of this to mind was another incident, one that just occurred and prompted me to write this blog entry. I was reading a book called Dairy of The Way by Ira Learner (thanks Marcia). The book is about how three Asian budo masters, one a master of Aikido, another a Chi Kung master, and the third a master of Tai Chi Chuan, approach their mastery of Tao (the Way).
I’m not looking to become a master or even a student of Asian philosophy, but I do try to learn as much about cultures and ideas as I can, and this book, published in 1976, offers some interesting perspectives. (Again, ideas from 40 or so years ago. This could be some kind of kismet at work.)
While reading through an interview with Yukiso Yamamoto, the Aikido master, I was struck by something he said.
“Through teaching others we find out how little we know.”
Hold on to that thought for a moment.
When I got married nearly 40 years ago I believed I had a fairly good handle on how the world worked. I was 21 and like most kids, I was too naive to know what I didn’t know about the world. It was my children, Toby and Sarah, who opened my eyes to my true ignorance. Watching them grow, teaching them what little I knew of the world, discovering things together was both humbling and exhilarating. Much of what I am today I owe to my kids, because they’ve taught me more than they’ll ever know.
So, as I prepare for Namibia, I do so feeling confident in my uncertainty about what the experience will bring, but I am certain that it will stress me and force me to adapt, which I believe I’m fully capable of doing. I believe I will grow. I believe I will teach and through that teaching, learn.
So, the lesson here is that I should have written down my thoughts, no matter how trivial they seem. As I said in my previous blog, much of this could get boring fast, but hang in there with me. I think this is gonna be one helluva adventure.