by guest writer Nicole Haley
Last night I started re-reading Muriel Barbery’s, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. One of the two central protagonists in the book is an extremely intelligent and incredibly disillusioned 12-year-old girl named Paloma. Paloma is surrounded by privilege and endless striving. She is convinced life is absurd and has no real meaning: “People aim for the stars and end up like a goldfish in a bowl.” And so she makes a plan to kill herself on her 13th birthday. But at the same time, she sets herself a challenge to keep two journals – one for the mind, in which she writes profound thoughts, and one for the body, to record tangible aesthetic beauty – “things that, being the movement of life, elevate us.” After all, she says, “if there’s something on this planet that is worth living for, I’d better not miss it.”
Paloma’s first entry in the “Journal of the Movement of the World” reminds me of hooping and the potential we have to spin inwards and experience a deep and restorative calm. I remember watching hoop dancers and experiencing this sense of peace. I wanted what they seemed to have. It’s why I started hooping. In the book, Paloma is sitting in the living room while her father is watching a rugby game. Usually she’d scarcely look at the television screen, but something about a player on the opposing team entrances her. It’s not about his physical size or his athletic skill – though they are both considerable. What is so captivating about this player is the way he is moving.
Paloma explains: “…when we move we are in a way de-structured by our movement toward something: we are both here but at the same time we are not here because we’re already in the process of going elsewhere …”. This player was different …”he was moving and making the same gestures as the other players … but while the others’ gestures went toward their adversaries and the entire stadium, this player’s gestures stayed inside him, stayed focused upon him … that gave him an unbelievable presence and intensity.” In the hooping world, some might refer to the state described above as “flow.” But it’s more than that. I’ve watched hoopers like this with movement so liquid it appears they are gliding to a transcendent state.