Monday, July 04, 2005

Are you a klutz? And if so, do you know it?

Last Saturday I watched a very nice nine year-old girl navigate the challenges of a large meal. I observed the overturned serving dish and the spills that aggregated about her and wondered whether she might have genuine klutz credentials.
A klutz has natural abilities to spill, to knock over, and generally to increase entropy in unexpected ways without any nastiness of disposition. It took me a long time to understand that I was a klutz. These days it is only the result of much planning ahead and careful thought that has, so far, made me eligible for the following epitaph: “He never destroyed a computer by pouring a drink on it.” (Keyboards and floppy disks don't count.)
In my case, understanding how the klutziness arises has helped me to live in peace with myself, and to avoid some disasters. But to avoid all of them: that's not in the nature of a klutz.
My klutzy capabilities are probably pretty universal, although I'm sure there are yet other klutzy skills that I have not attained. First, my finger movements are not very skilled. Second, when my body is in motion, I clearly do not have a good idea of where it is. My hands and several other parts are usually further from my brain than I think they are, increasing the likelihood that they will fly against objects whose nearby location is known to me. Third, having too much to think about, I am probably no longer paying any attention to the glass that I'm about to set down half off the edge of the table.
It wasn't easy to discover about my finger skills. Until I was nearly twenty, I knew no young musicians who could play music as difficult as I played; but later, exposure to virtuoso-level skills forced me, ever so gradually, to realize where the scale of physical control really was, and where I actually lay upon it. Discovering that my body is not really where I think it is has taken many more years, but I'm glad now that I know these things.

I wondered whether it might be good for this nine-year-old to learn about these curses-of-the-klutz, but perhaps she is far too young to benefit from such self-knowledge, or to bear such a heavy mental load.

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