The floor is not only the ground of our world, but also the springboard of our motion. Our simplest acts in the physical environment are performed on this surface while manoeuvring over its terrain. Although these prospects disappear on a flat, predictable ground, they multiply on one that is stepped or furrowed, tilted or curved, especially when these disruptions are marked by surprising and alluring features, inviting us to move creatively, rather than automatically, in response to the contours underfoot.
When negotiating uneven ground, a person’s mobility is never reduced to gross forward motion, but entails an assortment of springy vibrations that control and surround the overall flow. Torso and limbs tense and bend with ever-shifting and often precise adjustments to emerging terrain. A miraculous anatomy within the legs is called into play to stretch and compress as it bounds forward to land securely on the next momentary perch, before launching again into the air. Soles and toes wrap around textures with a primate-like effort to grip and exploit each new surface, subtly attuning the gait and flow of the vaulting body. These tiny creative discharges are concentrated where nerve endings abound, being a little more sluggish in the torso and sensitive in the extremities. Our peripatetic gestures are not simple vectors but clouds of motor and sensory impulses enwrapping horizontal progress, numerous erratic adjustments of each footfall that bestow a personal aura on motion. These eccentric pressures and releases are not appendages to movement but a penumbra of barely noticed forces that infuse walking with autonomous power.
In the interplay of flesh and ground, a varied and uncertain surface ensures that our movements are always fresh, transforming muscular effort into innovative actions. But equally important to this enterprise is the distinct and rugged character of the surface we cross. These qualities determine whether a floor is exhilarating or dull, and worthy of our pursuit. A topography that is unique and unmistakable, with clear and differentiated challenges that are instantly recognizable (even if never seen before), adds a special intensity and extra kinesthetic depth to motion. The grasping and releasing of lush terrain, revelling in our bodily skills at the height of play with the ground below, brings about a primal freedom known only to man. The experience carries us back to our origins, to the earliest gropings of infancy and further back to the beginnings of the human adventure.
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Human faculties shaped aeons ago in a gravitational matrix of earth and trees require a periodic return to unsure terrain, where stimulating yet risky contours disrupt habitual and often mechanical motions. Everyone from the newborn to the aged needs unprotected places with challenges suited to their own capabilities, where they can test the limits of their limbs, senses and brains, so that each of these powers becomes an extension of the will. This kind of self-creative research, with its solitary trials and errors, its sudden surprises and strenuous encounters, is a simple yet fundamental act of facing the unknown and building self-reliance.
Most importantly, every surge over an uncertain floor calls the body itself back to life, as an impassioned tangle of flesh and bone, a figure struggling to burst from its frame in a wave of being, restoring our very existence. We make ourselves more vital and real by learning that the body through which we exist in the world is, for that moment, vital and real. The body is substantially alive and there in its strains and efforts, as it responds and adjusts to distinct yet ever-new conditions. Brought to awareness is a visceral and muscular presence, but also creative faculties roused to cope with an unpredictable ground. Whether one’s body is graceful or awkward, it is pulsing with power.
Brought forth, as well, in these limber manoeuvres are the underlying motives of the self, an often hidden force at work that is beneath awareness yet flickers with impulses. In spontaneous acts of strolling over a challenging terrain, the ‘I’ wells up and appears, expressing itself through marvellous deeds and taking charge of its own destiny. This simple