One of my favorite songs by Billy Joel is “It’s All About Soul”. During this school year, I’ve decided to change the title to “It’s All About Qi (Ki in Japanese). Earlier in the year, I blogged about “Feeling Genki” after learning the true meaning to the word Genki in Japanese class. A lot of the Japanese calligraphy originated from China, so it makes good sense that the Chinese word for “the flow of energy that sustains living beings” (Wikipedia) or qi (older spelling is chi) was formally introduced to the students during our last fall Chinese Poetry Workshop. It’s also interesting that in Korean, this energy is “gi” and in Vietnamese, it’s “khi”. This week during our workshop, Steven Ratiner introduced this workshop as “The Way of the Brush”. He went on to explain the difference between clerical style calligraphy, which is beautiful, neat, and clear to painting with qi. Painting with qi means that it is spontaneous, on the spur of the moment, making it up on the spot. You need to be so open-bowled that the energy flows out of you and into your brush. A mistake or error in this type of painting is seen as a positive thing. Throughout these workshops, students have learned poetry associated with different dynasties and philosophies. Today’s lesson was centered on Zen Buddhism.
After discussing the four essential elements for producing this type of art — brush, paper, ink, and inkstone, students first practiced strokes that make up all of the symbols before moving onto practicing writing some symbols. Then, “Autumn Reflections at the Dressing Table” was played to the class. When they felt something, their ink-loaded brush was put onto the rice paper. Stepping back, they evaluated their first stroke and decided what to do next. This went on until the students felt they were complete. Now, looking at their drawing, students created a poem to go with the drawing. These poems will be edited, and then written onto the scrolls. This will all be mounted and we will have a wonderful memory of this workshop.
Back to more “Qi” — several weeks ago, I started to do a blog after the mile run. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, so here’s the beginning:
“This class totally energizes me on most days. However today, another verb can be used: inspires. Today was our mile run at the Emerson Track. I always love to go along, being a former track athlete and coach, to watch the students run. Today, all 19 students participated in this activity. For most, they were finished in the eight to nine minute range, some below that range, and some above it. But for one student, it took 42 minutes and 37 seconds to do 1/4 of that distance.”
Here’s the end now to this unfinished entry. “The “qi” that I felt in participating in that full 42 minutes and 37 seconds once around the track was incredible. This student truly personifies the utmost qi of anyone I’ve ever met. Never complaining, never saying “I can’t do this.” Nearing the end of this 400 meters, the two 4th grade classes lined both sides of the track, cheering this student on. The energy present was simply incredible. Tears were streaming down my face as we neared the finish line. To say this was a moving experience doesn’t do it justice.
Last thought on “qi” as I finish this entry up. A colleague said to me late Friday afternoon over a cup of tea, “I heard you and your class singing on the way to lunch.” A student had put on a pair of “Skeleton-like” gloves and we all spontaneously broke out into “Bones, Bones, Bones, Rattle-Rattle.” I thought back on what Steven said about painting with qi and thought this is what “qi” is all about — the spontaneous collection of just doing anything with joy (I knew I could get back to my Billy Joel song) — whether it be singing a song from Monster Madness, cheering on a classmate, or being totally engaged in learning. There’s a good abundance of “qi” going on in Room 305B these days and this makes every day a delightful experience!
Hope everyone is getting healthy or staying healthy!