“The Living Matrix” (TLM) is a new documentary about a variety of “energy-based” alternative medicines. It’s directed in the style of “What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?” (2004) and “The Secret” (2006) with tight cuts of commentary from about a dozen experts. There are several testimonials from individuals who were healed (or healed themselves) without relying on traditional western medicine. The movie has had a variety of showings around the world and is now available on DVD. I saw a recent screening of the film at the end of the ISSSEEM conference and purchased the DVD.
While the experts are speaking, the “voice” of TLM is really the director and the editor: what questions are asked and what edited parts of the experts’ responses are used. TLM experts criticize a reductionist approach to understanding the world, but this film itself is fundamentally reductionist: pulling small parts of separate conversations and reassembling them outside of their original context. DVDs provide a means to archive massive amounts of low-resolution video; I would really like to have access to the original interview footage.
There are a variety of scientific claims made in the film. These claims may be backed up with research, but no references to published papers are provided (other than listing the books that the various experts have published). I attempt to stay current on a broad spectrum of scientific topics; when I see some new claim with no references, I tend to dismiss it. The website would be an ideal place for links to the scientific research, but the producers haven’t created this reference.
Why would a skeptic care? Because the documentary repeatedly claimed it was discussing was scientific theories. There are certain rules that one must follow for that claim to be legitimate. If someone is not going through this process—or reporting on a group of scientists who did—what they are doing is speculating or making conjectures. It’s not that one is good and the other is bad, but there is mischief in failing to distinguish between the two.
This kind of movie is not the best way to learn science. Watching tightly-cut commentary from a variety of experts overloads rational thought; viewing nonstop causes more of an emotional response rather than a rational one. Frequently pausing the movie and researching the science (or lack of science) behind the claims causes the movie to play very differently.
What is graceful movement? How do everyday things move gracefully, and what can we learn to bring grace to our own movement? Consider three examples:
Power Transmission Lines are used to distribute electrical power from generation facilities to homes and businesses. They provide a redundant network for power distribution; everyone should get reliable power even if parts of the transmission line network are temporarily shut down.
In the US, overhead transmission lines come in sets of three, and they usually deliver three phase power. The three power cables are held at uniform tension, and the distance between the three cables is precisely maintained throughout the entire transmission network.
Wind can cause the individual cables to vibrate; those vibrations can wear the cables out much faster. Cables moving individually could also create electrical noise and lower the quality of power in the grid.
Engineers use Stockbridge dampers to control mechanical vibrations on each segment of the cable. In this picture, there are a total of eight stockbridge dampers visible. These dampers are “tuned” to optimally absorb the particular kinds of wind-induced vibrations that the cables encounter.
These dampers are a classic loosely-coupled design; it’s also a bit counterintuitive that such a small widget could effectively control the vibrations on a long length of cable, but they do the job. These dampers are ubiquitous on transmission lines, but they were invisible to me until I started researching damping systems. Next time you’re near a transmission line, look for the Stockbridge dampers. And watch how the transmission lines move so … gracefully.
Here’s the basics of what I’ve learned over the last five years or so boiled down to eight principles. The list is crafted in such a way that both body/mind and technical types should be OK with the language.
1. The best way to describe the relationship between the bones is a floating relationship.
2. The resiliency of our body is something we can consciously and deliberately alter over time.
3. The most important strength is the strength of the system as a whole.
4. Our superficial and deep muscles play fundamentally different roles.
5a. Stacking-based imagery is pervasive in our culture; such imagery literally holds us down.
5b. By carefully observing ourselves and nature, it is possible to realize a different metaphor: floating compression.
6. There is a brilliance to our bodies that is largely unexplored.
7. Body/mind disciplines are a systemic means of exploring the world of floating compression that somehow, strangely, we have forgotten.
8. A pattern of movement that strategically alters the tension in our bodies is a body/mind discipline.
(Example of #5a: a skeleton is used to represent our musculoskeletal structure, but lacks any tensile elements.)
Tensional integrity is a very recent concept for our civilization. In A Fuller Explanation, Amy Edmondson talks about its origins:
In the summers of 1947 and 1948, Fuller taught at Black Mountain College, and spoke constantly of “tensional integrity”. Universe seems to rely on continuous tension to embrace islanded compression elements, he mused; we must find a way to model this structural principle. Much to his delight, a student and later well-known sculptor, Kenneth Snelson, provided the answer. He presented his discovery to Fuller: a small structure consisting of three separated struts held rigidly in place with a few strings.
Most of us haven’t had an opportunity to play with a tensegrity; having one in hand helps tremendously to understand them. Fortunately, you can buy one of these at your local toy store or from Amazon.com: it’s called a Skwish Toy. Get a more info
Skwish! Body/mind workers: get several of these toys; figure out ways to use them in your classes. Better yet, get one of the medical-grade models from Tom Flemons.