IMG_1490Let us now praise famous men, three of them: F. M. Alexander, the discoverer of the Alexander Technique, his follower Patrick Macdonald, and Albert Lee Bowers. Now, that last man, Mr. Allie, as his friends called him, just who is he? A sharecropper, a grocery store clerk, my paternal grandfather, and the man whom, if I arrived in heaven, I’d like to meet first. (That’s he behind the plow in his Tennessee strawberry field.) Mr. Allie, after whom I’m named, had a defining gesture that I see in my mind’s eye right now, and occasionally in the movement of my own hands. He had a way of nodding with his hand, his elbow bent loosely at his side, his palm turned inward, his wrist free, and his hand in motion, up and down, a lateral wave. If Mr. Allie was doing this he was saying something that mattered. But I was an ignorant kid and seldom got it. But what I do remember are his hands, semaphores of goodness, beautiful hands, though he would deny it.

Now those lesser luminaries Mr. Alexander and Mr. Macdonald, they may have something in common with Mr. Allie. They too, we can imagine, had free wrists. I have it on good authority that Mr. Macdonald in his last days spoke eloquently with his hands and wrists, turning them in the same way they turned during countless lessons, his wrists oblique to his arms.

In football, a stiff-arm, so called, can put a fearsome tackler to the ground in a flash. The arm with a fixed and inflexible wrist is a formidable weapon. But a free wrist, what shall we make of that? A free wrist is a hallmark of a great lover, a peacemaker, a teacher.

Really, you can’t have a free wrist with a stiff shoulder or a stiff elbow. A free wrist is an emblem of your systemic freedom. Want to learn to play your keyboard better? Want to learn to play your self better? Free the wrists. Now, one way to learn about this supremely natural faculty is by study of the Alexander Technique. It’s all in the wrists. Freedom of the wrists is an emblem of love. I learned it from a master’s hands.