Santorinii 3: O Kyrie Georgios, filo mou

George and Patty

George Kousaleos – head of the Core Institute, a ‘competing’ Structural Integration school, our host for this trip along with his wife Patty, and my co-teacher for the course part of it – is a large man. Not tall, especially, but broad and expansive, with an Old Greek smile that widens to take in his cheeks, and then his ears, and then the whole wide world. George has a flexible agility (he runs the morning stretch class, comfortably encircling his foot with his bear-paw hands where my thin artisan fingers are fighting my short hamstrings and bound hips to claw for my ankle), belied by his stocky legs and almost ponderous movement through his daily life. I feel like a darting hummingbird beside his calm ursine warmth.

His large head is necessary for all those brains; his bull neck was forged in rugby and football; only large ribs could encircle such an expansive heart. His girth probably started with a Greek’s love of food drenched in olive oil, but additionally I recognize a brother: he has been playing the role for a long time that I took up only a couple of years ago – that of padrone. He is literally a grandfather, with a Greek’s eye on the extended family of cousins, nephews, and assorted associations. But he also has his school, his employees, his students, and the bodywork community under the umbrella of his generous care and intelligent concern, and after a time this responsibility begins to induce a gravitas inside that expresses itself in a belly-centered heft outside. Or so I’ve found.

George and I have just discovered we were both at Harvard at the same time. He completed his degree in the famous Soc Rel (Social Relations) program that was sweeping Harvard at the time, which combined psychology with sociology in a world-saving reach. The real opportunity at Harvard, besides Widener Library, was that one could get close to truly great people, leaders in their field. While I was being inspired by the sonorous tones of the playwright William Alfred in Mem Hall and Shakesperean actor Dan Seltzer and learning evolution from Ernst Mayr, George was across Prospect St. in the William James building, riding the elevator with B. F. Skinner, and learning how to bring people back from addiction with Erik Erikson. What a playing field!

But the late ‘60’s was a rebellious time. George’s rebellion was not to complete his doctorate, a sin with which his father (“I’m only thinking of you and your future!”) beat him about the head. I was an English major (what you did in those days if you didn’t know what else to do, though for me it was a way of getting credit for what I would have done anyway – hang around the Loeb Theater), a year ahead of George.

In the ferment of ’68, when the ‘revolution’ was in full swing and the cops in the baby blue helmets clubbed us out of University Hall, I dropped out – not because of the heavy-handed response to the war protest, but because in the aftermath there was suddenly a socialist revolution, with all these classes on Fanon and third-world farming that I, television revolutionary, found unutterably boring. My father, a Republican WASP, kept his counsel with only a disapproving look on his face that well I could read. I went on to a minor college to study with Bucky Fuller and never went or even looked back to Harvard. George, however, is still associated with the Harvard Admissions, and says he could help me complete my undergraduate degree based on my book and other work – tempting.

What George and I both share from that time, more than any intellectual snobbery or revolutionary fervor, is a deep and abiding conviction that the body means something more than a vehicle for the mind, that this rise in massage and somatic education is more than just an upper-middle-class indulgence in sybaritic excess.

Both of us were inspired into this field based on an intuitive flash, and only later realized the fuller social and evolutionary – essentially anthropological – implications of the ‘Me Decade’, better named at the time as the Human Potential movement. Both of us stayed in it despite the re-appellation ‘New Age’ and the population of well-meaning but needy do-gooders who tend to populate the associated professions. Both of us conform to the laws and rules of schools, buffeted by market forces and everyday business realities rather than hiding in the tenured womb of academia.

George got his SI training from Bill Williams, one of the first of Ida’s ‘buds’ to feel the frost of the Rolf Institute’s exclusivist attitude that lasted 30 years until the formation of IASI, though it still remains in some hearts and minds. I confess to having the same thoughts myself – that CORE and Soma and Hellerwork were ‘cheapening’ the work by teaching it … what? Too short, not high concept enough? not in the direct line from Ida? – some such bullshit until in 2000 I myself was outside the pale and the scales fell from my eyes. In any case, George combines a massage school and the SI program, and has had deep ties with the development of massage as a whole and is a leading light in the AMTA, sports massage for the Olympics, and school standards – but his heart remains with the structural work. I lay on the table for him to demonstrate his take on Logan Basic, and I defy any Rolf-trained teacher to do a better job of freeing the back.

We are all doing our best to revivify and re-incorporate a society gone mad into somatic alienation, where physical education and remedial medicine daily walk ever closer to the robotic, disembodied way of doing things where human beings are just adjunct pieces to be used for the good of the stockholders, whoever they may be. George’s intellect, coupled with his intuitive sense, is a force for re-inventing our society in its fully psychosomatized form, where we prepare our children for the demands of the 21st century, where we teach the Neolithic bodies our children are born with to live fully, successfully, sensually, sexually, and autonomously in this electronic world. Thank God for his intelligence applied to this problem, for his calm warmth, and for his steady, water-like pressure on the cold logical machine of maximum profit and minimum involvement. George is a human, in the sense the Greeks invented them.

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