There are moments when I am on stage, performing original music where I feel I am in "the zone." You will never convince me that I am anything more than a mediocre guitarist, singer and songwriter, but there are moments where everything seems to flow so effortlessly, I might as well be Jimi Hendrix up there. The energy in the crowd also seems to rise, at least from my perspective, as I am in "the zone." This is at the heart of Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity.
So when Edward Slingerland discusses wu-wei and de, ancient Chinese ideas about spontaneous, effortless action and a sort of charismatic energy that spurs people to follow, I knew what he was talking about. We identify it commonly in sports in America, such as when Michael Jordan would take over in critical, game-changing situations, or when Peyton Manning carves up an opponent's defense seemingly at will. As Slingerland points out, we can't explain it, precisely because it is something that seems natural.
I would recommend this book as a lens with which to examine both ourselves and our culture, and as a not-so-subtle reminder that there's much to be gained in letting go, not trying so hard, and just going with the flow. For a hardworking teacher trying to get through the last stretch of the spring semester, that's an important lesson.
The good folks at Crown Publishers provided the review copy that I am once again giving away to one lucky reader. To enter this giveaway, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject TRYING GIVEAWAY by 11:59pm CST this Wednesday, 3/19/14.
Grab your own copy of Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity on Amazon.