DRMacIver's Notebook



I was going to do another study on Intelligent Virtue today but the day kinda got away from me (ironically, partly due to an in depth discussion of virtue ethics on discord), and now I’m tired, so I’m not going to.

Instead let me tell you about the Alexander Technique lesson I had with Peter Nobes earlier, which gave me a good handle on a problem I didn’t know existed.

Let me set the scene.

Peter and I were about to play catch (this is surprisingly helpful) and I spotted that I had left my coffee cup right behind him. I felt that my throwing balls in the direction of a nearly full cup of coffee was probably a poor idea, so I said “Hang on a second, let me just move that” and walked across the room to put it somewhere less precarious.

Peter stopped me. “Did you maintain your Alexander while doing that?” “No, probably not.”

“I’m going to use an unkind word to describe what you just did. You were scurrying.”

We then had a good conversation about how I had also done this earlier when I arrived. I was in the middle of a conversation on Twitter and he came out a bit earlier than expected. Now I needed to put my bag on and pick up my coffee cup and oops I’ve forgotten my mask let me put the coffee cup down and…

The result is these abrupt and slightly flustered looking movements that signal “I need to do this in order to get to the important thing”. A sort of furtive rushing through the motions.

The interesting thing about these motions is that they’re not actually that much faster than calmly doing the thing, and to the degree that they are they are probably increasing the error rate (consider how I forgot my mask and had to go back and sort that out), so may even be slower. But what they do is signal that you are going fast regardless of whether you are actually going fast. Moving in a way that indicates that you’re trying to get this over and done with and you want those around you to know that.

I think henceforth this label of “scurrying” is going to live in my head as referring to specifically doing something in such a way as to indicate you’re trying to trying to get it over with so you can get on to the important bit.

(This ties in to what Alexander Technique calls “end gaining”, but I think “scurrying” points to something more specific here - it’s not just that you’re focused on the goal, but are simultaneously treating the goal as unimportant except in that it’s necessary)

Is scurrying bad? Maybe. I don’t think rushing through something to get on to the important bit is necessarily bad, to the degree that it actually helps rather than is counterproductive, but I do think that often scurrying happens in cases where it shouldn’t.

Take for example the earlier incident where I went to move the coffee. Why was I scurrying? I was there to learn to stay in the Alexander state and move accordingly, so getting the cup of coffee was every bit as important as playing a game of catch, but I treated the former as something to get out of the way in order to do the latter.

One of the nice things about scurrying as a concept here is that it’s so visually clear as a set of movements. I’ve been struggling to really integrate anything Alexander Technique related into my life because I don’t remember to do it, but scurrying is something I can go “Oh, I’m doing the thing. Do I want to be?” to, and use as a prompt for change.