“There is an ideal of excellence for any particular craft or occupation; similarly there must be an excellence that we can achieve as human beings. That is, we can live our lives as a whole in such a way that they can be judged not just as excellent in this respect or in that occupation, but as excellent, period. Only when we develop our truly human capacities sufficiently to achieve this human excellence will we have lives blessed with happiness.”
I contend that FM Alexander managed to offer us a pathway to develop this very human excellence. By overcoming our shortcomings and the traits that block us, we can learn to more fully realize our potential and enjoy a greater measure of happiness. What is demanded of us is a great deal of self-examination.
But how does the practical work of an Alexander lesson relate to human excellence in the general sense? How do we possibly connect standing and sitting in a chair (with some gentle “adjustments” along the way) with an excellence that leads to happiness in life? What on earth has one to do with the other?
Think of it this way. If we are habitually distorting ourselves just in order to stand on the planet, if we’re constantly contorting ourselves as we move, and slumping to sit, if we go about the very basic tasks of life while simultaneously pushing ourselves down and lifting ourselves up, then we are in a bad fix.
In this condition, as we set about to master any specific trade or occupation or any avocation with specialized demands, we bring all of our habitual baggage with us. In the process we can make an even bigger mess of things. We pressure ourselves to excel, practice longer and harder, and get better and better at distorting and blocking ourselves.
The process of learning that FM Alexander discovered, offers us a way to change this condition, because it offers us a way to change our habits. With the help of a good teacher we can have a new experience; we learn to Stop/ Think/ Observe/ and Allow change. This leads to self-possession and toward self-mastery. This is the kind of excellence I believe Aristotle had in mind; excellence that can help us to “have lives blessed with happiness.”