jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life

Where does the phrase “practice of everyday life” come from? (Warning, in professor mode here)

The phrase references the title of Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, originally published in French (L’invention du quotidien), translated into English by Steven Rendall in 1984.

In the first volume of this book, Arts de faire, de Certeau makes a distinction between the “strategies” used by those in power and “tactics” used by ordinary people in their daily lives such as talking, reading, moving about, and cooking. In these “tactics,” people do more than automatically consume or submit to the fixed and hierarchical conventions that govern societies.

In looking at a book, for instance, the reader’s lapses of concentration and unexpected associations might transform the act of reading, whereby “A different world (the reader’s) slips into the author’s place.” Thus what is dictated by the book’s words is transformed through the reader’s experiences:

This mutation makes the text habitable, like a rented apartment. It transforms another person’s property into a space borrowed for a moment by a transient. Renters make comparable changes in an apartment they furnish with their acts and memories; as do speakers, in the language into which they insert both the messages of their native tongue and, through their accent, through their own “turns of phrase,” etc., their own history, as do pedestrians, in the streets they fill with the forests of their own desires and goals. In the same way the users of social codes turn them into metaphors and ellipses of their own quests (xxi).

One can think of skating as similar, as an “art” that, as de Certeau would say, is “anything but passive,” since it allows for new ways of moving as well as thinking outside the box. The laws of physics, the ISU rulebook, and the conventions of popular interpretation that seemingly govern skating might well be thought of as the rules of meter and rhyme in poetry: “a body of constraints stimulating new discoveries, a set of rules with which improvisation plays.” The experience of skating offers so much that is not apparent to most people, and certainly not captured by the limited coverage that we see in the mainstream media.

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