Outsourcing has a bad reputation these days, conjuring up images of low wages and dangerous sweatshops in distant, impoverished lands, while our own laid-off workers end up on welfare
But on an individual level, we’re all outsourcers – often in ways that are beneficial to both parties. When my car has to be repaired, I take it to my mechanic. When the roof gutters have to be cleaned, I call the gutter guy. When I need a haircut, I go to my hair stylist.
And, like so many other Americans, when I’m hungry I’ll often microwave a frozen entree, outsourcing food preparation to unseen people halfway across the country. Or perhaps call for home delivery, keeping my outsourcing closer to home.
I am a big fan of outsourcing. When there’s a job to be done, my first reaction is usually “Where can I find somebody to do it.”
But there is quite a different kind of sourcing – I think of it as “insourcing” – and it lies at the very heart of what I teach, the Alexander Technique.
The Technique’s developer, F. Matthias Alexander, faced a serious vocal issue that threatened to end his acting and reciting career. At first, he opted for a traditional outsourcing approach to solve his problem, going to doctors, vocal coaches and the like.
The last doctor he saw prescribed complete vocal rest for a couple of weeks and, like the previous regimens, that too failed miserably.
But all was not lost.
Alexander visited the doctor the day after his performance to talk things over.
Here’s how Alexander described that conversation in his third book, The Use of the Self:
I saw my doctor next day and we talked the matter over, and at the end of the talk I asked him what he thought we had better do about it. “We must go on with the treatment,” he said. I told him I could not do that, and when he asked me why, I pointed out to him that although I had faithfully carried out his instruction not to use my voice in public during his treatment, the old condition of hoarseness had returned with- in an hour after I started to use my voice again on the night of my recital. “Is it not fair, then,” I asked him, “to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble?” He thought a moment and said, “Yes, that must be so.” ” Can you tell me, then,” I asked him, “what it was that I did that caused the trouble?” He frankly admitted that he could not. “Very well,” I replied,” if that is so, I must try to find out for myself.” (Chapter 1, “Evolution of a Technique”)
This conversation, with an unknown Australian doctor in the late 19th Century, was truly the beginning – the conception as it were – of the Alexander Technique.
The Technique’s actual birth would take a few more years. That’s the topic of my next blog.
Pizza image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net