the power of place

After a long time, we have restarted in-person aikido classes, with all appropriate mitigation measures in place due to current circumstance, and it’s great after so long to be able to practice more-or-less properly. But walking back into the dojo for the first time in more than a year and a half (we had been using other rooms), I was reminded of the power of that a place can have.

We bow when we enter the room, we take off our shoes before getting on the tatami, and this short ritual carries an enormous amount of internal weight. I feel the liminal shift, leaving my day job behind for some little while, and the ritual is part of how I focus my attention on aikido and to let other things slip away.

This same liminal shift happens elsewhere as well. The annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Convention ended a week ago. We gather, we critique each others’ pieces, and walking into the critique room (always the same room), taking off my outdoor shoes and putting on my slippers, I get the same feeling as I get entering the dojo.

And the critique room is a dojo of sorts; we have a task of focus, we all throw ourselves into that task. As in the dojo, we are there to be the whetstones to allow each other to sharpen our craft.

Universities are reopening and I start teaching in a week’s time, and the classroom has the same feel as the dojo and the critique room. The students and I are all there for the same purpose – to explore (in this case) graph theory – and we have that same focus.

It may be that I have a slightly different view of the classroom than my students, and if so, then that different view comes from these other spaces, each dedicated to the study of a particular craft.

There are many spaces that don’t have that same feeling associated to them; the lounge and the kitchen are rooms that serve many different though functions. My office at the university also serves different functions: it is not a space purely for research, and it is not a space purely for teaching and education, and it is not space for administrivia and email, but rather is a space for all of these.

I find this sensitivity to space and the functions of space interesting; as is often the case, I’m sure there’s more to dig out of this idea, and that’s something that I’ve now added to the (near infinite) list of things deserving some time for contemplation.

~ by Jim Anderson on 26 September 2021.

3 Responses to “the power of place”

  1. The Scottish Presbyterians talk about “thin places.” These can be rooms or buildings, although they don’t have to be either. They are places where the veil between us and God is particularly thin. I find this idea very appealing.

  2. I like the idea of the Milford crit room as a dojo. And I think some places have special meaning and significance for us because of what we do there, and some places have power in and of themselves…

  3. […] wrote about one aspect of this getting back to teaching recently, when I wrote about the physical space. I walked through the rooms I’ve been assigned last week, stood at the front of the room looking […]

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