At the last Father’s Days barbecue, my young niece taught me to do a proper cartwheel. A proper cartwheel, she explained, begins as a handstand. Did I know how to do a handstand? I most certainly did. Or, I knew how to begin a handstand. For as long as I have been attempting handstands, which occurs at the rate of about once-a-summer, I have only ever been able to maintain this inverted balance for a few upside-down seconds. There so much to pay attention to – keeping your feet straight in the air, keeping your hands under your shoulders, your hips even with your head – that if your attention wanders for even a breath your balance escapes you and you must return to your feet, a position which requires no effort to support you.
Sometimes I lie in bed and attempt a similar handstand. I picture the world as a place without error, a perfect sphere of existence impossible to correct. Like my handstand, I can hold this perception for only a few, breathless seconds before my mind, ever active and in search of something to fix, pulls me from this balance.
For those few moments of mental inversion, the world appears as if from a handstand, the same trees and houses and children, only their perceptual opposite. The view from this perspective is as clear as from a mountaintop, but also just as dizzying, especially for the mind, which prefers something to grab onto and manipulate so that it can feel useful.
When my mind flips the world back, it feels as if I am returning to the natural balance of my feet, so accustomed am I to seeing the world as in need of correction. And indeed, before long, this old perspective feels as natural as walking. But first there comes a moment where I feel the effort that I exerted in search of errors that needed correction. For that moment, I see that I am not returning to my feet, but launching myself once again onto my hands to join all the other little gymnasts as we practice being the opposite of what we are.
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