16 June

Teaching And Learning, Tai Chi And Writing: The Power Of Friendship

by Jon Katz
A Parable
A Parable

C.S. Lewis says that friendship is born the moment one person says to another, and says, “what, you too?” I think a friend is someone who knows you very well and still manages to love you. Scott and I have embarked on what is, for me at least, a great adventure.

Any man who tries to teach me something is a brave man in for a great struggle, I have left a bloody wake of broken teachers behind me in my journey through life. I love to learn, but resent being taught. Scott is not much better. Every Thursday at 1 p.m., we meet at Pompanuck Farm for an hour (it’s usually 90 minutes).

For the first 30 minutes, Scott teaches me Tai Chi. For the second half-hour I teach him writing. The interesting thing is that each of us struggles to grasp from the other the very thing we teach ourselves. Scott teaches Tai Chi as a self directed and gentle process by which we free our inner spirits and give voice to our bodies.

I essentially teach writing the same way – not about what people are doing wrong, but what they are doing right. Writing is our voice, a sense of self and identity. What we teach, we struggle to learn.

Today, a first breakthrough I think. Scott is grasping the importance of simplicity and writing. You write the way you talk, and in your own voice. There is no right and wrong, just help in finding a process that works for you. Everyone has a story to tell. Like many gifted people who wish to write, Scott was taught early on that writing was about grammar and that his stories were not important.

Today, he got past that, writing a lovely piece about the day a teacher complimented the things he did with his hands, praise that altered his life. The piece is about the power of hands in our lives and his love working with his grandson’s hands as well as his. A lovely piece, really, Scott is really getting it, finding his voice and power.

As for me, I am learning a five-step Tai Chi movement that I like and can do. It isn’t about doing it right, Scott tells me, but about feeling differently about my body, connecting to the earth, moving in a fluid way that is healthy and calming. For the first time today, I could see it and feel it a bit.

So a good day, I took my new portrait lens and set out to capture Scott, rather than shoot his face up close, I thought about what would capture Scott and stepped back and got this shot of him practicing his Tai Chi by the Pompanuck Farm pond.

A good day, only a powerful friendship could have accomplished it. We will stick it out together.

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