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January 22, 2007

Green Ball Trees

When I taught 2nd and 3rd graders to draw a certain tree, a lot of them would draw a rectangular brown trunk with a green ball representing leaves on top. It didn’t matter that there weren’t leaves on the particular tree that I told them to draw, or that the trunk had shadows on one side. Most young students draw all trees with brown trunks and a green ball on top. It was almost painful for them to try to draw what they saw rather than what they “knew” that a tree looks like. Eventually I got them to see that the tree in question had a double- pronged trunk, and it came as a revelation to see and draw shade on the side of the trunks and a shadow on the ground.

Another problematic image in their drawings was the sky, which consisted of a ribbon of blue at the top of the page, rather than a sky that goes all the way down to the ground. I asked them “what’s between the sky and the ground?” and they thought I was joking with them.
And then there’s the sun.

My Aikitaiji students do the same thing when following me in form practice. While I’m doing “four corners”, my students are drawing brown-trunked, green ball trees while thinking they’re doing four corners. I may be doing “wave the whiskbroom in the wind” and they’re drawing a ribbon of blue at the top of the page, thinking that they’re right just because I’m not correcting them. I tell them to lighten up in push hands, and they draw a sun with a smiley face while brutalizing each other.
The students who think they know what they’re doing are the worst at correcting themselves. When doing forms with them, I’m often frustrated that they aren’t even looking at me. They’re just drawing away on some abstract idea of “right” instead of watching me for details that may not correspond with what they think they know. Even the master painters learned to draw realistically before going abstract.

Learn to watch the details, and be ready to give up your idea of “proper form” for proper form. Then be ready to give up your idea of who you are for who you really are. Don’t let what you think you know get in the way of knowledge. Everything you think of as yourself is a stick figure with a gigantic head and fingers sticking out of stick arms, drawn by your ego in adult childhood to simplify your behavior for the survival of your flat life. If you can extricate your mind from the flat shadow concept of who you are, then you can begin to realize your true full- dimensional essence.

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