After my return from Edinburgh, it became clear to me that the one thing holding me back (OK, one of the things holding me back (OK, one of the many things holding me back)) from my dream of a life under the big top was a certain deficiency in the flexibility department. In response, I have been trying to make good some of this deficit – at least in part by augmenting the role that stretching plays in my exercise regimen. In some ways this was not too difficult, as I have always been decidedly reluctant to stretch – somehow expecting flexibility would arrive unbidden – upping the volume didn’t require very much (starting, as I was, from such a low base). In others, years of neglect of this (possibly boring) area of endeavour has made my sudden Damascene (of the north) conversion quite the challenge.
Perhaps fortunately, this coincided with Alice Roberts’ excellent book The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being. This is a wonderful read and full of fascinating nuggets of information. As the (not particularly) proud possessor of a human body, I have always found rather puzzling the idea – beloved by some who struggle with the concept of evolution – that it should be the work of an ‘intelligent designer’. Worse than that, it is – apparently – his (or her – though rarely her, in this case) meisterwerk. As a user, I would contend that the human body is clearly a rushed-job, bodged together as a supposed upgrade to an existing platform and clearly in need of a lot longer in beta test (and when are the patches coming?). To the extent any design was involved, ‘intelligent’ is pretty low on the list of adjectives I would select to limit the noun. Alice further hardened me in this view, particularly when it comes to the wiring loom. If this was designed, then it is the work of a madman: it wouldn’t even pass muster for a third-rate electrician in a hurry, let alone a being with an impressive range of omni-skills on his CV and all of eternity to work on it. It makes far more sense if you know about Mother Nature’s slow re-purposing of the now redundant gills left over from an earlier model – along with a bunch of other compromises arising from having to make the best of some now very old, and poorly documented, code. This has made me suspect that AI will not come from the many very bright folk working hard to achieve it, but will instead appear by accident in a much patched, expanded and re-purposed IT system lying deep in a bank or airline (and probably written in COBOL – so perhaps the makers of The Terminator were more prescient than they knew).
Anyway, I seem to be stretching the already taut elastic of your forbearance rather further than even I might hope to get away with, so back to pliancy (mine). It would seem that many features of our tree living cousins which had been assumed lost, are still available to humans: in particular, I recall that the idea that our feet are not capable of bending very far towards our shins is complete nonsense: we are in fact more capable in this regard than most of our ape-cousins (it’s just that very few of us put in the necessary commitment to tree-climbing from an early age). Somehow, this gave me hope that, despite my antiquity, there was still hope that I could become much more bendy than has been the case for many years (possibly all years, though my actual childhood bendiness has now passed beyond recall). So for a good month now, I have been surprisingly diligent in trying to become more lithe – and this is starting to bear fruit.
It would seem that unlike most of the great apes (and me, as of six weeks ago) my lumbar spine is not fused but does in fact retain some degree of mobility. My shoulders, hips and even wrists are also demonstrating rather more flex than I have grown accustomed to. It would seem that I am slowly undoing 40+ years of neglect and this became apparent in the shower a couple of days back. I was innocently spreading the cleansing citrus foam of my shower gel to my body when I suddenly discovered that my hands were accessing regions of my back where they had not been for lo these many years. Filth that had lain undisturbed for decades (or at least untouched, except by ad-hoc back-scratching tool) has finally been exposed to the direct action of cleansing soap and probing digits. Who says circus skills have no place in the real world? So much scratching to catch up on!
So, inspired by my progress date, I now find myself in temporary possession of The Yoga Bible: on the hunt for routes to still further exploit the topological potential of my body. I must admit that I have always avoided yoga – it always seemed too middle-class and cod-spiritual: the stuff of sitcom and celebrity, rather than real-life – and so had never expected this to happen (many younger versions of me will be very disappointed). The only time I have previously attempted it (many years ago), I was accompanying the wife of a friend, as he refused to go, and my primary response (and hers) was uncontrollable giggles whenever we caught sight of each other (and so two promising yogic careers were over as soon as they began). However, now I can see a use for the thing and hope to be able to better control my need to laugh. According to the Bible, apparently, anyone who can breathe can do yoga – and certainly, I strongly suspect those unable to breathe would struggle with yoga and, in fairly short order, with anything much else which smacks of the living – so I should be in with a chance. It would also seem that I have actually been doing yoga for quite a while without realising it – what other ancient skills might I have accidentally acquired and remain unaware of? Might I be an absolute whizz at kung fu?
For now, I shall stick with acrobatics and yoga and eagerly anticipate a future in which all my dogs are downward facing and my positioning regularly lotus (or would that be Excel these days?).