Having taught Alexander’s work for all of five years, just shy of my thirtieth birthday, my workshop at Crosslands Retirement Community had finished. Putting on my coat, head down, feeling unsure of myself, in grave doubt about my ability to get Alexander’s work across, an elderly man approaches, a soft elegance about him. Upright, tweed sports jacket, bow tie. He extends his hand and says, “James, James Bennett. You might like knowing that fifty-five years ago I received lessons from Mr. Alexander. He used to tell me that, next to John Dewey, I was his worst student. I always took that as a compliment.” “Well,” I said taken aback, “tell me, be honest, how did I do?” “It moved me seeing you work with my friend Agnes, he said. To see her walking without her walker. How can I say, it was thrilling. You know, I had many lessons with F. M., but they were always individual lessons. I never watched anyone having a lesson. Until now. I could actually see what was happening. You were teaching me how to see. It was enlightening. As for how you did? Have no doubt. You did splendidly. You have that touch.”
That made my day. Actually, that kept me going for years. It affirmed my intuition that Alexander’s work could effectively be taught in groups. It further convinced me of the importance of being able see Alexander’s work, as subtle as it was. And I felt encouraged to keep cultivating “that touch.” Early on I had made a vow to myself that I would not quit until my hands were as good as Marjorie Barstow’s hands. James Bennett made me feel I was on my way.
Forty years after having made that vow, a 1000 workshops later, 15,000 people-under-my-hands later, I may have made it. I may have gotten there. I may have fulfilled my vow. I will never know for certain, and so best to not stop practicing. I don’t think I could stop practicing. It’s who I am, at my best.
In this short video, entitled The Touch, by Anchan, you get to see what Marj Barstow passed onto me, what Alexander passed on to her, and what I will continue to do my best to pass on to my students for as long as I am able.