Tuesday, August 25, 2009

half halt


I was in a waiting room and I saw an article in "Dressage" magazine about this equestrian maneuver. From all the diagrams and explanation, I couldn't tell what a "half halt" is supposed to be. I can't even tell from the wiki video.

Here's the thing. I bet if you ride horses for a little bit, you "find" this maneuver. Even if you don't know what it's called, you recognize that when you "do" a certain thing, the horse responds in a certain way, and this is like a discrete entity. You can tell when it's working or not working. Sometimes you might try to do a half-half; seemingly doing the exact same action that you've always done, but for some reason it doesn't work, you don't get that response.

Like in Go, the ideas of moyo or thickness or sente. Once you've played a bit, you know exactly what they are, but it's pretty damn hard to explain to someone who doesn't play; even if you give a perfectly good explanation, they just don't *see* it, they can't see it on the board. They have to see the thing itself first, without a name; then you can point at that thing and name it.

It's a discrete entity because there's some strength to it as apart from other possible ways the sequence of events could unfold. It's amazing in a way that things like this exist at all.

Another example is the kinds of interactions you can have with people. You can just feel that it's "this" kind of thing, 99% of the time you don't have a word for it, but you recognize it very clearly. And artists communicate this shit in sweet ways.

It blows my mind that we can communicate this stuff. Even giving a name to something like the "half halt". What *IS* it?!?!? The rider does something and the horse responds in some way and this influences the rider... and all of this is fluid and is totally dependent on the surrounding context.

It's easier for me to have this amazed feeling about something that I *don't* understand; it's harder to have it about something that I deal with routinely. That's one reason it's awesome to learn new things. You can have this vague idea of "what if things fit together in this kind of way that I can't wrap my head around", and then someone has a word for it.