Thursday, May 22, 2008

Becoming the dance

(picture kindly provided by my cousin hakim)

I defended my thesis just over a week ago. Of course I freaked out on
the days before that and had all kinds of nightmares about things
going wrong. But it worked out well. I managed to figure out a way to
squeeze some ballet in there, used in this case to illustrate the
concept of similarity. The magical thing was that as I was doing the
ballet, I forgot about all my nerves, and really got into it. It was
kind of like when I have a good performance, and I really forget
everything. At that point, there is no 'I', there is only the dance or
the story and the audience. It is quite a magical and beautiful
moment. When I did the dancing this time during my thesis defense, I
too did forget my nerves, and just became the story I wanted to
tell. That is the magic of the performer.

But it may even be what is
meant by egolessness in a Buddhist sense: where the I is suddenly not
important anymore, and it is all about giving your life, your actions,
and your possessions to others, so that they may be happy. And then
when you stop worrying about yourself, magically happiness ensues. So
too when you become the dance, happiness ensues. The pain in my toes
is forgotten, and I bring both myself and the audience to a different

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A little bit every day

Sometimes people admire me for my flexibility in ballet class. Pretty
much invariably I tell them that that is nothing really amazing. It's
just a matter of a little bit every day. When you do some stretches
every day, you will most surely progress. In fact, that is true for
almost everything. Simple, sustained effort is that what will pay off
in the long run. One thing that made me even more aware of that is my
impending thesis defense. Suddenly 4.5 years of hard work will by
culminated by a thesis defense. Writing a thesis is pretty much like
running a marathon--it requires sustained effort. It also requires
making sure that you are healthy and happy, because otherwise it will
not happen. That reminds me of the definition of the Buddhist precept
of "diligence": to find joy in what is virtuous and wholesome. The joy
is very important too. There is something about being joyous at what
you do, in every little bit of effort, that will make it all in the
end work out into something much larger. But it is the simple joy that
will allow you to keep going, every day. Also to focus on just that
one day prevents you from having too much fear about whether you can
do it or not. Instead you can just trust that some day, it will
happen, and it will. So really, a little bit of effort every day is
what does miracles.

This picture shows me on campus, in front of the famous LOVE
sculpture, together with a friend who shares my name (her first name
is also Marieke). It also shows the beauty of spring.