Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kinesthetic Intelligence

On Monday, night I was at the pottery studio. My friend has joined me for this term of pottery. It's her first time at the wheel, and she's experiencing the frustration and challenge of learning something new as an adult. The reality that you can't cognitively learn to throw, you have to have your hands learn.

She said something on our walk home that stuck with me: "I'm frustrated because I'm usually really good with making things."

I feel that way, too. I have a very vivid memory from kindergarten when I realized that I was good at making things. It's something that I absolutely know about myself, and has been a source of confidence throughout my life. So it was so interesting to hear Erin also voice this understanding of herself. I'm good at making things.

I spent this morning searching the internet for more on this idea, and I finally came up with a word for it... kinesthetic intelligence.

"Kinesthesia is our movement sense. It simply refers to an awareness of changes in momentum, balance, pressure and body position in general. It tells us all about how we are moving our bodies. Kinesthetic intelligence includes control of the bodily motions, the ability to handle objects skillfully and the gift for using whole body motions...This sort of high kinesthetic intelligence is what creates scientists, writers, artists, musicians, dancers, performers and other creative people that allow their minds and hands to move without any pre-planned format. While some are blessed with athletic abilities, others are gifted in fine-motor skills, such as drawing and crafts."

Discovering this word for me is like discovering the word dyslexia or feminist. It rings so loud and resonates so clearly. I feel like it's what I have been searching for writing this blog. Why designing on a computer feels like phone sex to me... totally distant and unsatisfying. Why I get my best ideas while running or swimming. Why making anything... dinner, a pair of clogs, or a new dress makes my brain light up and feel happy.

The Kinesthesic: we are the dancers, the builders, the surgeons, the yogis, the knitters, the engineers, the naturalists, the tailors, the cobblers, the cooks. Are you one too?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I remember when I first moved to America, I was struck by how everyone's teeth looked the same. To an American, English teeth are notoriously bad. But to English people, American teeth are generic. They have no personality. American's argue that teeth are put in their wire straight-jackets for health, but how often do you really hear of people dying from bad teeth? Are we to believe that British life-expectancy is shorter because we have crooked teeth. Teeth are straighted here because we've been taught that conformity is better.

Which leads me to think about this article by talking about mental illness and it's relationship to creativity. According to the study, mental illnesses such as anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse are linked to creative people. Writers are twice as likely to commit suicide than regular people.  Roberts suggests that the medical profession's tendancy to try to wipe out all irregularity is not doing the individual justice. That perhaps the ups and downs of bi-polar disorder are in fact useful to an artist.

I'm not saying that mental illness should be disregarded, but I do think it brings up a good point that perhaps we are trying to mentally 'normalize' people too much. I know that when I get a creative spark, I'm not totally sane... there's a sort of giving in and going with it that has to take place in order to find flow. I think most people who are creative for their profession would agree with this.

What worries me is if we are indeed over-medicating our children, what works of art, novels, inventions, machines, theorums and medical discoveries are we loosing forever? What is the cost of everyone being normal to society?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Physical Intelligence

I spent this weekend with my friend, Jenny and her family. Jenny and her husband are marine biologists, and both possess a temperament that is solid, grounded and real. For their work, they go out on tiny fishing boats for weeks at a time, studying marine life, catches and the environment. As you can imagine they are both very physical people.

Their son, Lincoln, is nearly 4. He is grounded in the world, so strong and present. Watching him in the playground, I sit on the edge of my bench as I see him fling his body off the highest reaches of the structure. Jenny and Warren sit calmly, not even flinching as he takes yet another dive, lands with a splat, picks himself up and carried on. This kid is tough.

I think the four of us share a specific physicality. We all relate through the world through touching, feeling, making, fixing, categorizing: pushing against things. We are all physically strong, the sort of people who 150 years ago would have made it across the Prairie in a covered wagon. 

We get into a conversation about university and how scary it is to raise the funds to send your kid there.  There's this belief these days that everyone HAS to get college degree- and with it the $150,000 price tag. I'm a child of academics, but I feel like this is bullshit for a lot of people. Instead, I think we should be elevating the Trades to a higher level.  I recognize that the trades used to be about class (upper classes went to explore their minds at the universities while the working classes were stuck in metal shop with a limited future).  My dad grew up very poor in Liverpool, and it's pretty much a miracle of class progress that he didn't end up a mechanic, and instead became a esteemed professor. That is definitely progress, and we should support it. But what of the kid who longs for making, fixing, tinkering, and is instead is pushed by everyone to go to college to theorize? Is one really catagorically better than the other, or are we just leaning up against unexplored classist beliefs? Matthew Crawford talks about this eloquently in Shop Class as Soulcraft.

If and when I have kids, I'm going to support them if they want to go to university, but it's not going to be required. I don't think you need it in order to be a fully realized person. Or, indeed, to make a good living.