Friday, April 16, 2010

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I am sure we have all heard the metaphorical phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This phrase reminds us not to judge by appearances. Today I am going to temporarily ignore the idiom and literally judge a book by its cover. In fact, I am going to compare two covers of the exact same book “The Dao of Taijiquan: The Way to Rejuvenation” by Jou Tsung Hwa.

During Tuesday’s Tai Chi class, the senior student brought his copy of “The Dao of Taijiquan”. He was looking for a passage where it states that the optimal time to complete the Yang Long Form was one hour. The book had paperclips identifying pages, highlighted passages and notes in the margins. This book was read and more than one time. The book had tattered corners and some wrinkles. This book was not sitting neatly on a bookshelf. This book was being used to its full potential…it was studied and used as a point of reference.

Now let me compare my copy of the exact same book. My copy of the book is only a year old. I have not read this book cover to cover but I have read selected chapters. The cover of my book looks like it did when I first bought it. There are no paperclips, notes or highlights. My copy looks like it has been sitting on the bookshelf. The binding does not even look broken in.

When I looked at the senior student’s copy of the book, it was readily apparent that I have a lot of work to do. "Judging this book by its cover" could be a metaphor for my Tai Chi training and a reminder of how much training/studying needs to be done.

A quick aside: Years ago, I worked part-time for a Non-Profit Society and had the opportunity to work with an excellent group of people. The Society published an annual volume series promoting the education of preservation of Pennsylvania German history. The Executive Director, who was a Ph.D. candidate in folklore, would talk about his love of books. He even had a procedure on how he would open a new book and break in the binding. A hard cover book would make a distinct cracking sound when opened for the first time. Does anyone else have a book opening procedure?


FredInChina said...

Ahhh Michele - I "literally' love books; my favorites are closely matching the description you make of your senior student's.
I do not have a procedure to open new books, but I will pay attention to the distinctive cracking noised next time I have a new hard cover...
One day, on a plane, I was making abundant notes in the margins of the book I was reading when I felt some very powerful negative energy; I turned my head and noticed in the aisle a person staring at me; she had a disapproving look and seemed to be in shock... I smiled at her and asked her if she was a teacher; 'yes I am", she answered, "why are you asking?" she continued...
I smiled again and told her that it just felt like she was a teacher, but that it didn't matter... and returned to my scribbling.


Michele said...

Hi Fred! Good story...:) I can vividly imagine the woman's disapproving look.

When I was in college, I did not write or highlight my textbooks. I think it was the twelve years of Catholic School education. At the end of the school year, we would have to erase all the pencil marks in the textbooks. Old habits are hard to break.

In addition to Okinawa Kenpo, I started learning Tai Chi a year ago to strenghten my knee after surgery. One day...I hope my copy of the book will look well worn.

S.Smith - RealTaiji said...

Awesome translation... do judge a book by its cover!

I enjoy random opening and reading... it gives me a sense of the author's writing style. Sometimes I read the end to know where I'm going. It doesn't ruin it for me: I wonder where authors wander on their way to the end.

Shang Lee said...

maybe you've been practising so well that you use less of the book? ;)

Shang Lee said...

Maybe you've practised so well that you use less of the book? ;)

FredInChina said...

Maybe Shang Lee, but from my personal experience, the more you have studied, practiced and mastered, the more often you will return to a book that contains the knowledge.
Usually to discover finer and finer distinctions that you could not see before.

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