My grandmother makes the best dishes and when I ask for the recipe, it is no secret, she gives it to me with a big smile. Then I go home, ready, with all the ingredients and a laser focus. I cook with extreme care, I taste: it’s completely different. I call my grandmother:
M: “Oh granma, did you give me the right ingredients”
G: “Of course I did, this is the way you do it”.
M “Are you sure I am not missing something?
G: “Sure, sure!”
End of day one with a failure.
The next day I try again, it tastes different. I try again, different. I go to her, I see her do the exact same things, it tastes better and she is improving each time. How frustrating!
I have been wondering many times if she had been hiding from me some secret ingredient, but even if I spied on her I was able to pick up nothing different. However, paying more attention it is possible to notice some details: she cuts in a specific way, she cares about cleaning the space, she stirs in a way but not in another, she knows exactly how much fire each stage of the cooking needs, she even looks at the food in a different way than I do it. And all this that looks done by absolute chance it is instead a process of refinement that has going on for a lifetime.
If you ask her why she stirs counterclockwise instead of clockwise she will say, nah that’s the way to do it.
So, the moral of the story is: she really uses my same ingredients, but it’s a lifetime she does the recipe. That is IT.
Next time you meet an expert in a field, don’t ask for her/his knowledge; just observe closely, go home and practice. No answers from the outside can ever replace the ones we grow from the inside.
Have you ever watched the movie – “Jiro dreams of sushi?” It pretty well sums up the perspective I have among the practice of parkour. Here you have a trailer.
This process of ever refining can be liked or not but I find a lot of beauty in it. Especially, when mixed to a silent minimalism. As a food critique said about the work of Jiro: “an absolute simplicity, leads to purity”. And then continues, “The sushi keeps getting better and better, he never disappointed me, it is almost a miracle. But you know the only thing that changed in his life from 20 years ago to now? He stopped smoking, the rest, it’s all the same.”
The key of a practice it is getting to a point where practicing it is not a practice anymore, but it is instead merged to our beings. In essence, becoming one with what we do. Behind this there is nothing but doing it deliberately and with enthusiasm, passion and commitment, the same gestures, in the same life.
It was a landing when I started and it is a landing now, but it is not the same landing.