A New Year’s Eve Conversation with Mr. Alexander
I was totally caught off guard when I received a phone call yesterday asking if I’d like to do a short interview with F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique!
Alexander has been dead for over 50 years and while I have no trouble accepting the possibility of re-incarnation, I’ve always assumed the dead generally prefer not to communicate with the living. However further discussion – including some close questioning – convinced me that it was indeed Alexander on the line, and that he had two important ideas he wanted to convey to the Alexander Technique community, and to the larger world.
I detected a sense of urgency in his voice as we began the interview:
Me: It’s a great, and unexpected, honor to talk with you Mr. Alexander. You are one of my great heroes. Is it all right if I call you FM?
FM: Yes you certainly may. That’s what everyone called me.
Me: I understand there are two topics you particularly want to touch on today.
FM: Yes, first I would like to say a few words about the current state of teaching of my work. I am deeply gratified that it is going strong in your country, England, Japan, Israel, Australia and in many other countries around the world. I am proud of the teachers I trained, and many of their successors. However I do wish it were better known and understood by the general public.
Me: Do you think part of the problem is the term “Alexander Technique”?
FM: That is no doubt one problem, although I suspect it is now far too late to change it. As I am sure you know, it was never something I used myself. Also I have to say some of my own terminology has not served the cause well. For example I would not have used the word “inhibition” if I had been able to anticipate Freud’s use of it. But my concerns have more to do with the failure of teachers of the (sigh) “Alexander Technique” to make the work better known.
Me: There does seem to be a reluctance to promote the work by many teachers – a reluctance, I might add, that you never had!
FM: Right you are Robert! I wish today’s teachers would let go of that reluctance and to “popularize” the work – it needs to be popularized! Particularly today. And that leads me to the second point I want to make.
The many problems facing Earth cry out for the kind of personal insight my work can help bring about. The changes necessary for the planet’s continued existence depend on individuals coming to their reason. And that, in turn, requires them to truly know themselves.
You are facing a series of crises unlike anything before. And, of course, just as in the human organism, these crises are all deeply interconnected. One cannot really separate the economic, military, political, ecological etc into unrelated categories.
I hope I don’t sound arrogant, but my work is truly of the utmost importance now. Your current situation is dire – your very survival is at stake. That is why I arranged for special permission to do this interview.
Me: I will publish your thoughts in my blog and I hope that will serve to spread your message. I see that our interview time is running short. Do you have any specific recommendations you would like to share?
FM: My friend and student, the American philosopher John Dewey said wrote this many years ago, before Word War II erupted :
In the present state of the world, it is evident that the control we have gained of physical energies, heat, light, electricity, etc., without having first secured control of our use of ourselves is a perilous affair. Without the control of our use of ourselves, our use of other things is blind; it may lead to anything.
People need to develop control of themselves if there is to be any real solution to the today’s problems. I urge teachers and students of my work to think deeply and seriously about this. It is my belief, and my hope, they will do so.
Me: Thank you for this wake up call FM. Is there anything you’d like to add?
FM: It may seem strange, but I would appreciate it if you would include the short video of the gathering of students on my first training course. It was a beautiful summer day and one of the happiest of my life. It may not seem to be appropriate, or serious enough, for the topic at hand, but for me it represents a joyful moment of the sort I hope and pray you will see many more of in the coming years.
Here is the video FM asked me to include:
At Alexander’s request, I am posting this interview on New Year’s Day, 2014.