Book 7. The Energy of Life (2003)
Listening to Grandfather’s account, I realised that Anastasia too, in communicating with our son, was constantly creating learning experiences for him, training his thought up to speed. Outwardly this looks like play, but thought is all the while being trained even when the child, through what looks like play, is developing purely physical abilities.
I have already mentioned how one morning while playing tag with a she-wolf, Anastasia executed the following trick: after beckoning to the wolf, she quickly began running away from it. The wolf gave chase. But when it had almost caught up, Anastasia suddenly leapt up against the trunk of a nearby cedar tree, pushed herself off from it with her legs, did a somersault and ran off in the opposite direction, while the wolf’s inertia kept it dashing on past.1
I watched as my son, too, played tag with a wolf cub. The young wolf always overtook the boy, no matter how fast he tried to run.
It would run just a little ahead, then turn and deftly manage to give a quick lick to the child’s arm or leg on the run. Volodya would stop on the spot, rest a while, and then once again try to outrun the wolf, and once again the wolf would catch up with him.
When Anastasia showed our son the trick ofleaping against the cedar tree to sharply change his direction, he really liked the idea, and tried to repeat it himself. He leapt up against the tree from a run, but was unable to do a somersault and head off in the opposite direction. When he tried pushing off from the trunk the first time, Volodya landed on all fours. Falling again on his second attempt, he looked enquiringly at his mother. Anastasia told him:
“Before jumping up against the tree, Volodya, you should work out your next moves in your head.”
“I did do that, Mama. I saw how you did it, you know.” “You saw how my body did it, but you did not conceive or feel how your body should do it, or what it should be governed by You first need to train it with your thought.”
How one could execute a physical exercise in one’s thinking was something quite incomprehensible. However, the boy walked up to the tree-trunk and stood by it for some time, either with his eyes closed or making instinctive movements with his arms and legs. Then he stepped back and made a run at the cedar trunk.
This time he ran faster than usual. I was even a bit afraid something might happen to him, that he might hit himself against the trunk and get hurt. But he came through with flying colours. He pushed himself off and executed the somersault. After stumbling just a little on landing, he was able to start running back at once. He repeated the exercise several times, getting it more technically perfect each time.
Good exercise, I thought. “It develops all the muscles,” I told Anastasia.
“Yes,” she replied. “It develops the muscles, and, more im-portantly, accelerates the thinking.”
I wasn’t about to ask how a purely physical exercise could accelerate one’s thinking, but it wasn’t long before I realised that this was precisely the goal Anastasia had in mind in showing Volodya that particular trick. It happened like this: Volodya summoned his playmate, the wolf, and they started off racing. The wolf had almost caught up to the boy when
Volodya did his somersault and ran back in the opposite di-rection. Not anticipating this turn of events, the creature kept dashing on past the cedar.
While the wolf stopped and tried to figure out what had happened, Volodya was already running headlong the other way in triumph. He was laughing, waving his arms, leaping into the air, making the most of his victory
The young wolf, however, proved an exceptionally astute and clever rival. As Volodya was trying this trick for the fifth time, at the very moment he was approaching the tree, the wolf suddenly slowed its pace and stopped just a little space shy of the tree-trunk. When Volodya completed his somersault and was about to run off in the other direction, the wolf easily got in a lick as he landed, leapt in the air and wagged its tail. Now it was the creature’s turn to triumph, while Volodya could only stare at it distractedly in amazement.
Anastasia and I sat nearby and watched the whole scene unfold. Once again Volodya attempted to outwit the creature, but once again he failed. On each occasion the clever wolf stopped just in time, waited for the boy to land, and managed to get in a lick, sometimes more than one.
Volodya began pondering the situation. His expression turned serious, even to the point of frowning. But apparently nothing came to him. Still pondering, he headed over to us and looked us enquiringly in the eye. Anastasia at once said: “Now, Volodya, you will have to take into consideration not only your own thought, but also the thought of the wolf.” And once more the boy went off to think. I also began contemplating the situation. And I reached a firm conclusion: once the wolf had figured out the boy’s manoeuvre, there was nothing more that could be done. The wolf would anticipate his actions, and while he was executing them, it would simply wait for him. Even if Volodya did the trick twice as fast, the wolf would still succeed in getting in its lick, and no
amount of thought would help. When I discerned from the boy’s face as he approached us that he had come to the same conclusion, I said to Anastasia:
“Why are you tormenting the child like that? It’s clear that he’s never going to outrun the wolf now And neither will you. That she-wolf of yours had no idea of what was going on when you ran away from her, but this young wolf has proved to be smarter than its mother.”
‘Yes, it is smarter than its mother, but Man should always be smarter. I am not tormenting our son. I simply suggested he think about it, take the wolf’s thought into account and come to his own solution.”
“But it’s absolutely clear there’s no solution here. If there is, then show me. It’s hard for me to see my son with such a sad expression on his face.”
Anastasia got up and beckoned to the young wolf, which came to her delightedly at once, wagging its tail. Anastasia gave it a cuff on the shoulder and ran off, signalling the wolf to follow.
Volodya and I watched how fast and easily Anastasia ran. The amazingly sprightly and fluid movements of this already mature mother were impressive in their beauty and forthrightness.
Yet still the young wolf’s pace was just that much faster. Several times Anastasia was able to dodge it by sharply changing direction. The wolf momentarily lagged behind a bit, but was soon well on its way to catching up. There was no doubt but that it would overtake her in the long run.
Then Anastasia made a headlong dash for the same cedar trunk Volodya had used to push himself off from. A few metres before reaching the tree the wolf slowed his pace and, upon seeing Anastasia leap into the air, he sat down, preparing to lick her arm or leg the moment she landed. But...
She did indeed make her leap, but did not push off from the tree. Her body passed within a centimetre or two of the trunk. She kept on running, getting further and further away, while the astonished wolf went on sitting at the ready, trying to make sense of what had happened.
Volodya jumped up and down, clapping his hands and shouting with glee:
“I have got it, Papa, I have got it! I have to think quickly, for both myself and the wolf. I have to think quickly for myself and manage to think for the wolf more quickly than it thinks for itself, and put it all into action on time. I now
know how to do it.”
When Anastasia came over, he said to her:
“Thank you, Mama. The wolf will never catch me now”
The next time he raced the wolf, Volodya first tried twisting and turning as Anastasia had done, but then he went through a whole cavalcade of all sorts of tricks. He would grasp hold of a small tree-trunk on the run and use it to change direction faster than the pursuing creature. Or, leaping over a thick branch that had been broken by the wind, he would run up to it a second time, only this time jumping just on the spot, while the wolf made a headlong dash forward.
This is just one example — and there are a great many more. But the important thing is not the number of examples, but understanding the principle of the exercise.