10 Jun 2006 apenwarr   » (Master)

Trying and Being

    Do or do not. There is no "try."
    -- Yoda

The thing I find most interesting thing about yoga classes is the difference between how it feels when you're clueless (like me, usually) and when you know what you're doing (which I do in a few rare cases). When you're clueless, every position is a struggle, and it's really hard to maintain it for more than a few seconds. But when you actually figure out how to do one of the stretches properly, it becomes easy all of a sudden, and it doesn't feel like a stretch at all.

Sadly, none of the instructors have actually brought this up in class. You seem to be left to figure it out by yourself. But once you realize it's true, you stop trying to stretch yourself into a particular position, and you spend more time trying to figure out the trick of getting into that position properly. It's much more productive.

The rest of the world works like that too. And there are various philosophies that suggest that if you're truly enlightened, you can find the right place to stand and the world will revolve around you, working out just like you want.

But there's a catch. As much as it would be nice to be enlightened and just let things be the way you want, if you're not quite so enlightened, all that will accomplish is randomness or stagnation (depending where you land). In yoga class, you have to attain a certain degree of flexibility before you can even really start - and that takes solid effort. Once you get that far, you have to figure out how to do the different positions properly - and that takes effort too, albeit of a different kind. And the further you progress, the more convoluted it becomes.

And yes, I can tie this back to programming. I'm glad you asked.

I did a presentation at work a couple of years ago called "Coding Faster." In it I described the well-known concept of being in "The Zone" and also the opposite, which I called "Ooze." Most programmers aim to spend as much time as possible in the zone, but that's not quite right; the zone is being. You know what you want, and you know how to do it, and really: you get into the zone and it just happens by itself. (If you're a programmer and that's not how it feels for you, then you're doing it wrong. Trust me on this.)

The part people miss, though, is the ooze time leading up to the zone. It takes a lot of hard work to understand the universe well enough to be able to be properly productive in the zone. Ooze time, although it's slow and feels unproductive, is critical to overall productivity. Ooze time is trying.

So I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with Yoda on this one. There is definitely a "try." Anyway, he was probably just telling Luke that to keep things simple for the early lessons. But I agree that "try" is really not the same thing as "do," which I think was his real point.

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