Logic versus the senses

Paul doing tai chiSince my last reflective post, time has been given on the pursuit of becoming an Activity Coordinator, which is steadily gaining momentum – contact has been made with NAPA to start working what options there are for someone like myself with a fair amount of experience of the care system, but no direct qualifications within it. I thought I would outline some aspects why I want to be a digitally driven activity coordinator.

Starting with…Tai Chi?

Most activities are passing habits or hobbies which fade through time. Maybe it is the culture we live in, or the hectic speed of modern living, maybe both – the outcome remains the same, some activities are just that and never engender much more thought. I have steadily grown a passion for a number of years, which surprises myself and surpasses my expectations. I decided back in 2006 I was going to learn tai chi, it was a gift to myself for getting to 40. After a few expensive one to one sessions, I eventually found a group in Greenwich hosted by the brilliant, humourous and welcoming Lance Balzaretti.

Weekly lessons went on until 2014, and then I stopped. I practised once a week only while at the group meet, and hardly outside. Upon leaving the group, my practice continued. I didn’t stop doing the warm ups, stretches and the form and very lucky to have a partner to practise pushing hands with. Something changed, I now practise every morning, practically every day and the practise unfolds and expands in subtlety and depth as I practise and listen to the response of my body. Body awareness is one of the aspects developed over the years, and listening enhances the experience.

My practise has informed much about ergonomics, if you’ve been waiting for the link to technology. It also has stopped my recurring RSI that imposed a definite typing laziness too.

Ergonomics and the engagement we have with digital devices has become a preoccupation of mine in a multilayered way since my practise of tai chi has been also research into kung fu, which found the reasons for buddhist monks to learn skills:

  • self defence
  • healing themselves and others
  • being fit, increasing the amount of meditation time

The last option is most appropriate in a discussion about digital use, although the other two could be useful too in other ways. Sitting around for hours is not necessarily healthy for a body, it seems that in some circles sitting is worse than cancer. Posture is crucial in tai chi, and there are exercises to maintain and reinforce it – it seems that everyone I talk with when bad posture is mentioned tend to start sitting up straight or openly admit their poor posture. As such, I’ve been occasionally training people in learning a very basic tai chi form / qi gong moves. Quite confident to expand upon this area too.

Posture – productivity or pain?

Bad posture has a lot of impact on you when working, playing and entertaining yourself with digital devices. ‘iPad neck’ (where is the Android neck?) is a term I hear about and see a lot more of as people spend more and more time holding a phone or tablet for long periods. Using a mouse has a number of issues which plays havoc with a body – the amount of times I have seen people twisting their wrists into unnatural positions causes me inner pain. Even if pointed properly, bad posture and ergonomics can provoke RSI that sets in comes from the shoulder blades causing a lot of pain and discomfort. I regularly have to remind people what good posture is (in front of a computer that is) and often have to pull people’s shoulders back, and remind them to sit up straight. Of course, how long can you manage that pose? Perfectly good reason to take a break from the screen when finding it tough. Workrave is interesting too.

I also think there is an interesting similarity between meditation practice and the use of a computer – sitting for long periods, focus is needed to get what you want out of it, and practice makes it easier to do. Admittedly, meditation doesn’t show adverts or let you chat on Facebook, but distractions are all around us. Most of all, sitting in one place for a long period of time can be damaging to our bodies which are meant to move. Having a focus on the task at hand can make a short amount of stillness time incredibly productive – why sit for hours trying to do something and end up stressed? Another reason why I recommend notebooks: I say to some learners “You already can read and write, but you’re learning something new too. Focus on your existing skills to help build new ones”. But I digress a little.

Proprioception is my favourite sense. I once had almost an argument with a pyschology student that it could be classed as the sixth sense. When asked what it is, I ask people to close their eyes and touch their nose. Unless the quarter inch rule is invoked (you’re drunk, in other words) most people knows where their nose is. Ahem. This is a sense developed with understanding posture and slow movements, which we can track and repeat readily with accuracy. Fundamentally this is how we learn to touch type, being able to look at the screen and not look at the keyboard. I made some recordings about this some time ago. Tai chi has improved my proprioceptive responses tremendously, and also my reaction time.

Use of the senses versus logic – finally.

I’m a fan of Restart, an organisation and community on a mission to help people repair their electronic devices. To my surprise and delight, I found a little while ago they have a regular slot on London’s art radio show, Resonance FM. The show I tuned into was particularly of interest to me, as the presenters talked about the use of senses in repairs. My favourite part were the recordings of faulty hard drives, and the different noises the different faults produced.

I later talked to Yoshi, a master electronic craftsman / photographer about the programme. He then related his thoughts about the matter – that logic is used for maintenance and troubleshooting of software, and senses are used with hardware maintenance troubleshooting. So astute is master Yoshi. This also highlights why there are generally two types of IT people – the hardware folk, and the software people. Not many cross over into both arenas, and if they do are quite talented, singular people in my opinion. I am a software person, but like to try hardware bits and pieces now and again, but it gets me quite stressed unusually.

Maybe the use of logic in using software is the problem for many people when everyday logic is based in causality. Action and Effect. We use our senses to determine what happens in the day to day to navigate situations, and the logic that we use becomes comfortable – this is why Derren Brown are so popular, he shows up our cognitive assumptions, presumptions and failings in our ‘human logic’. Stripping down a motivation to its processes and activities is quite a task in itself, which is something I do in conjunction with pretty much all of my learners to engage them in a logical path to their chosen outcomes and hopefully digital confidence.

Have a listen to the show.