Born in 1986, Watanabe began juggling at the age of 20, and in time his interest has shifted toward the body itself, leading him to become involved in dance as well. Since 2013, he has performed both in Japan and abroad as a member of the dance company Monochrome Circus. In 2015, he presented his solo juggling piece Inverted Tree, and that same year he started the company Atama to Kuchi. The company presented the work MONOLITH as their first production, drawing attention and acclaim from the dance, juggling and circus scenes. In 2016, his work was selected as a finalist for the Toyota Choreography Award. That same year, in a rare case for a new company, he was given the opportunity of an independent performance at KAAT and presented the new work WHITEST.
(*) Contemporary circus:
While the 1970s, when the shrinking audience was forcing numerous big circus companies with long traditions to shut down, it gave birth to a new form of circus called Nouveau Cirque (New Circus) by Jerome Thomas, et al. The efforts like France creating its National Circus Arts Center in the 1980s, when Jacque Lang was Minister of Culture, were made to strengthen and support circus and street performance culture. A representative company in this new movement was Cirque du Soleil established in Quebec, Canada in 1984. This new kind of “art circus” that focus more on human performers (rather than animals), not only in fields such an acrobatics and juggling but also employing arts from theater, dance music and visual arts to greatly expand the breadth of artistic expression quickly spread worldwide and came to be known as “contemporary circus.” Notably, in 1993, Hors Les Murs was established in France as an information platform for street arts and contemporary circus. In Japan, beginning with the first Cirque du Soleil performances in Japan in 1992, today companies from France and Belgium are also invited regularly to perform.
|Inverted Tree (Upside-down Tree)
© Road Izumiyama
Feb. 28, 2017
|Amid the increased attention on contemporary circus in recent years, Hisashi Watanabe (Company Atama to Kuchi) has emerged on the Japanese performing arts scene like a shooting star with a new type of performance that skirts the boundaries between contemporary dance and juggling, which he calls “Floor Juggling.” His performances include ones like the solo work Sakasa no Ki (Inverted Tree) that display his unique physicality, combining amazing flexibility and control of his body, and others like a duo piece with a juggler titled WHITEST. In this interview we seek the philosophy behind Watanabe’s unique physicality, which has evolved from a focus on the potential of his own body that began in childhood.
Interviewer: Takao Norikoshi, dance critic
Contemporary Dance to Juggling
In the performing arts over the last ten years or so, contemporary circus has become increasingly important. I have also become interested in it and gone abroad to do research and interviews, but in 2015 when I saw you perform your work Sakasa no Ki (Inverted Tree), it really surprised me. I believe it has been a surprising revelation for many people, both in the juggling and the dance scenes.
Thank you. I created Inverted Tree
at a time when I was rethinking what I really wanted to do [in performance] after performing for three years with the Monochrome Circus company of the Kansai region. It is a work that for me represented the life I had been leading, so I was extremely happy when it was well received. At the time, I had no connection with the juggling scene, but the circus producer Naohisa Yasuta saw a number of videos I had posted on the Internet and he liked them, so he invited me to come to Tokyo to perform in 2013. That was when I met the juggler Yuri Yamamura and together we formed the company Atama to Kuchi (Head and Mouth), and for our first performance we created the piece MONOLITH
MONOLITH was a work in which the two of you each did a solo piece, so you did Inverted Tree. From the title, which means the “upside-down tree,” I got the image that you were going backwards down the tree of genealogical life. The sound of waves and bird calls in a jungle were playing, and with your body with its exceptionally developed back muscles and extraordinary flexibility seemed to be moving ameba-like and taking of the appearances of the movement of a variety of different animals. The juggling “bean bag” (leather bags stuffed with beads) that you used were not being thrown up into the air in the usual juggling form but, rather, you placed them on the floor or held them with your mouth, etc., so the overall direction of the movement was toward the floor, not upward. You call this “floor juggling.” I want to ask you about this in more detail later, but first would you tell us about Inverted Tree?
It is a piece that deals with affordance. An example of affordance is if a cup has a handle, you will naturally pick it up by the handle, even without being told to do so, won’t you? It is a kind of design that leads, or manipulates the body. On the other hand, chopsticks are nothing but a pair of sticks, but thanks to the skill of the user they function as a tool for eating meals. This kind of “making a contract with some sort of specialized tool in order to bring out its functional potential” is exactly what juggling is. A simple pair of sticks can play the same role as a fork, and in the same way balls or rings can become something more [through the way they are used]. If you have the ability, you can draw power from all kinds of things, and through them you can bring out your own power, your strength.
One of my themes now is what to do in a state where there is no affordance. If the human body were like some kind of primitive life form that doesn’t know how to move itself, how would it approach a ball on the floor? If all of the parts of the body were equal [in terms of possibility and capability for use], the body would probably use the mouth, being the closest part to the eyes that recognized the ball’s presence. I created the piece Inverted Tree
through the repetition and compilation of ideas like that.
Watching your performance of Inverted Tree, I would suddenly find that the balls that had appeared to be placed on the floor at random initially might then, before we realized it, become aligned in a straight line, as if complying with some sort of rule. I found those moments very interesting. It was like the way wind crossing a sand dune leaves beautiful patterns in the sand.
That’s right. That is another of my themes, that relationship between organic life forms and geometric forms. Many people think that geometric forms represent something manmade, but in truth there are many geometric forms that occur as natural phenomena. In fact, before MONOLITH
, the sort of primitive simulation game called “Conway’s Game of Life” that Sakurako Gibo (Atama to Kuchi member) had taught me about turned out to be spark a significant breakthrough for me. It is a simple type of program that involves moving small points and gradually it begins to produce new forms spontaneously. It changed my way of thinking, because I realized that although we may think we are acting/moving of our own will, in fact we may be just responding in accordance with simple programs.
It seems to me that you can’t create a piece by “just responding,” so may I ask what your thoughts are about creating a piece as a creative performance work?
I was studying fabric dyeing at Kyoto Seika University, and there were a lot of students there who were merely making trash under the pretext of creating works [of arts and craft]. Even though everyone is talking about art, they would work hurriedly to create a work before the submission deadline, but a week later it would all be in a trash heap to be burned in the incinerator. That made me feel that for all their talk about “creating the things they want to create,” in fact all they were doing was making trash. There were some people who didn’t seem to be making trash, and those people appeared to me to be not creating according to their will. Rather than deliberately trying to work from the standpoint of an artist, I came to think that just doing things because they had to be done was actually a purer approach to creating works in the end.
The same thing is true with dance, I feel. The kind of people who are doing dance in order to become an awesome dancer or to win recognition are actually people who would actually just like to be enjoying life in a normal way. If you are forcing yourself to work just to make trash, I think you are better off not doing it at all. Of course, what may look like trash to other people is often something that is very necessary for the person making it. But, I personally don’t want to make trash, and I believe that, rather than deliberately trying to be free as an artist to create the things you want, the really worthwhile work will happen when the time is right and the need is there.
In February of 2016, you performed Inverted Tree at the Fukuoka Dance Fringe Festival, and when the South Korean choreographer and director Hosik Yu saw it he invited you to perform at the New Dance for Asia festival in Seoul in August, and you did a juggling workshop for dancers at that time too. In July, you had performed a work titled Mochi-te with the juggling unit Pintkulu in Kyoto. Then, in an exceptional case for a new company, you were invited to give an independent performance of your work WHITEST at KAAT in November. In that performance you lay on the floor and moved or rolled the beanbags around in directions and with body movement that gave me a sense as if the direction of gravity was shifting freely over the floor.
As a company, WHITEST
was our first long work. I was grateful to KAAT for giving us that opportunity. So, for this great performance opportunity at KAAT, I wanted to strip everything away and stand on stage in a pure white state. That was the image behind WHITEST
. But, even if you want to strip everything clean, there are still two things that can’t be avoided. They are breathing and gravity. I tried, but the longest I could go without breathing was about two minutes (laughs). So I decided I would make gravity the theme of the piece.
How do you go about creating a work?
Rather than thinking things out in my head, I work almost exclusively in repetitions of improvisation and pick out the things that work well. But, since I am not good at remembering things for long, I don’t memorize things as choreography. Still, since it seems that my body remembers how to react to each beanbag on the floor, you might say, I react to it naturally. So, you could say the beanbags do the choreography for me. And, since I am recording all the movement on video, I can go back and watch it again and again.
What makes your juggling style unique is that you don’t throw the beanbags up in the air but place them on the floor or roll them along the floor or drop them to the floor. So, their movement is mostly in the direction of the floor, which indeed makes it a concept of “floor juggling.” Is that a term you made up yourself?
Yes. It is also something that is related to the European way of thinking about the body, but the way juggling has developed as a performance art is always based on thinking in the direction of upward and upward. For that reason, juggling became a competition of “numbers,” in which success is based on the number of objects (balls, clubs, rings, etc.) that you can juggle at once and how long you can keep juggling them. Within that cultural background, dropping one of the things on the floor is considered a miss and can’t be allowed. If one of the balls, etc., is dropped, there is nothing to do but ignore it, as if it didn’t happen. But for me, I didn’t see dropping a beanbag as a mistake. I saw it as simply a natural occurrence of the floor receiving the bag and holding it there. If the bag wanted to fall there, that is fine and if I then approach juggling from the state of the beanbag lying on the floor, then its being there wouldn’t be a mistake, would it. That is the concept from which I began my “floor juggling.” It was in my second year of juggling that I arrived at this way of thinking.
When did you begin juggling?
When I was 20. But, unlike most jugglers in Japan, I have never gone to the biggest juggling event in the country, the Japan Juggling Festival (JJF). So I have never been part of the mainstream of juggling; I have remained what you might call an outlaw. I think of juggling in a different way from them, and since I wanted to distinguish my style from that of others, I started calling it “floor juggling.”
What was it that first got you to focus on the floor?
The fact that the presence of the floor forces everything to exist on the same plane was a big realization for me. No matter how precise you try to be when throwing up the balls, each one will in fact reach a slightly different height each time. But, when placed on the floor they will all exist at exactly the same height. There is no way to resist using such a clear standard. Of course, my body is also subject to the same force of gravity and it is obvious that there is no difference in the state of myself and the balls when we are on the same floor.
Furthermore, my idea is that when the floor receives a falling beanbag, its energy continues flowing down into the floor. So, at the moment just after the bag hits the floor it is easiest to pick up again, but after it has been lying there for a while and all of the energy has flowed out of it, it then becomes harder to catch. It is that changing state of the bag’s energy that makes me feel from which angle and with which part of my body the bag wants to be picked up. In other words, my body is not moving as I tell it to but, rather, I am being moved by the beanbags. I used to worry that my feeling energy coming from the beanbags was the result of some obsession of mine, but then a juggler friend of mine said that he feels the same thing, so that made me feel that there must really be something to it. Right now I am studying ways that I can share this experience of that energy with other people.
Seeing how the beanbags you use land with a thud and stay put on the floor exactly where fall, I can get a sense of what you say about their energy flow. But isn’t it different with a ball rolling across the floor?
That is a very important point. When the legendary German juggler Stefan Sing came to Japan in 2015, he said, “If it doesn’t roll it isn’t a ball.” In fact, the balls, clubs and rings used in conventional juggling are conceived as things that respectively relate to the three different dimensions of the point, the line and the plane. However, in concept, points and lines have no surface area and a plane theoretically extends ad infinitum, so they can’t exist in reality. But, in juggling, they are seen as “things” that embody those three concepts. So, what about the beanbags that I use? When I thought about what they are I realized that if they are not balls because they don’t roll, then they can be considered some kind of “organic entities.” They are not embodiments of the point, line or plane but, rather, they are something akin to the ameba or something in the form of chaos. This is an approach that most other jugglers in the world are not taking, and with it I think I can dig deeper into depths of juggling.
Whereas most juggling is about trying to juggle things as skillfully as possible and the flow of energy is thus one-directional, I sense that by approaching the objects being used as organic entities, you are involved more in two-directional interaction, aren’t you?
Yes, that may be so. This is something I can say based on the experience I had of depending on technique when I first started out in juggling, but no matter how much you polish your technique, you can’t escape from the effects of your environment, or from a larger perspective from the effects of things. Thinking in terms of the strongest animals, if you move them to a different environment they will no longer be the strongest. For example, people known as contemporary dancers basically dance only on linoleum floors or wood flooring, and they would not be able to do the same kind of dance on a gravel road for instance. In other words, this means that contemporary dance is dance based on the type of movement that is enabled by the relationship with the linoleum floor. This means, I believe, that contemporary dancers are “floor jugglers” who use a floor and dance while being influenced by the floor. So, in fact, the free-est juggler of all is the juggler I envision who can use not only the floor but has the ability to adapt to any kind of environment.
An awesome body
What did you do to get such a strong body with your incredible flexibility?
From as early as I can remember as a child, I was always crawling around on the floor and walking like an animal on four legs, and I remember feeling that anything a cat could do I could do too. So I practiced things like jumping off the roof on the second floor and landing without a sound, like a cat. Once at night I jumped down and landed on all fours right in front of a man who was walking his dog, and he reported it to the police (laughs). I was doing things like that all the time, from elementary school into middle school.
By the way, in terms of sports at school, I only did Kendo
(Japanese fencing) and ping-pong (table tennis). Then, about a year after I started juggling, I started taking ballet lessons and doing break dance. In Japan’s ballet world there are few male dancers, so they are treated specially, and I was told that if I trained, I could become a professional ballet dancer, but I soon quit, because in ballet I couldn’t take advantage of my juggling or break dance skills.
Did you want to become like an animal?
From the time I was a child I liked characters like San in Princess Mononoke, and Tarzan and Spider-Man. Also, I was born with naturally very flexible ankles and long limbs, so it was natural for me to sit like this (squatting with both hands on the floor in front, like a frog sits). When I started dancing, I enjoyed the stretching too much, to the point where I could spend up to eight hours a day stretching the various joints of the body. I overdid it to the point where I developed pain in both wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, back, hips, knees, everything was so painful that it was hard to even stand up for about a month. Still, if I relax the tension in a joint and then stretch, or stretch while concentrating on a different finger, I find that there is still the possibility to get even greater range of motion in my joints. In that way I enjoyed taking my body into new realms [of flexibility, etc.].
Normally, in dance and in sports, you train your body in order to improve your performance. I believe that is the usual approach to training, but it seems that in your case, the body itself is the purpose of your training.
Because there is no limit to the exploration you can do into the body. I have long had an interest in having the body of a human being but being capable of movement that is not human. In a case like Princess Mononoke, people will say she was able to move like she did because it is animation, but in fact our human ideas come virtually all based on imitation of things from the natural world, aren’t they? For example, I believe that as a container for liquid that is portable, the plastic bottle is a based on the image of a fruit. So, I believe that even movements in animated films that seem magical are actually based on some existing image and therefore can be duplicated [with effort].
I believe that our bodies as they exist now are restricted by the social roles imposed on us, be it as a student or as a father, etc., and in fact we are made to believe that there are many things our bodies can’t do. Things like picking your nose or farting are natural and necessary functions, but because we are taught that we can’t do them in front of people, we indeed become unable to do them. For example, I always wanted to live in the nude, but if I did that the police would take me away, so I am forced to wear clothes. I don’t want to discard things due to that kind of suppression, or to being ignored because they are small, or things that have to be hidden.
Do you mean that you want to discard the body that has been forced on you for the purpose of social acceptability?
That’s right. For example, who was it that decided that we can only use our hands as hands? Monkeys use their hands and their feet in the same ways, don’t they? That is why I trained myself to be able to use my feet freely. I also trained myself to be able to use my left hand with the same dexterity as my right hand. Now I can use both my feet and my hands without constraint. Jugglers learn to use their mouth to hold balls or beanbags, they catch them with their feet and control them with other parts of the body without constraint as well. This is an entrance of vital force, and it is something that is much more significant than numbers-style juggling.
What do you mean by vital force.
People who don’t have hands due to a birth defect or accident learn how to write with their feet and do other amazing things with them, don’t they? I believe that strength, that ability to make up for things that you lack, or to recover for what you have lost is the true essence of vital force, the strength to live. In fact, break dance is very similar to juggling. In its broadest definition, I think you could say that break dance is techniques for standing with any part of your body. If juggling is the act of using every part of your body as hands, they say that break dance is using every part of your body as feet. That is the kind of dance I envision and the kind of juggling I envision. You can use ideas and practice to easily overcome the types of physicality that society forces on us. This is something in which I feel tremendous potential.
Is it recovering capabilities that society has suppressed in us?
Ballet is a form of dance that requires some special aptitude, and so it can’t offer salvation to the many people without that aptitude, but with break dance people with strong arms can do handstand-related moves, people with strong necks can do head spins, people who are good at moving to music can do step-related moves, so break dance can accommodate a lot of different people. But, the fact remains that you can’t win unless you master some amazing moves. With juggling, however, even people without hands can use their feet, people without feet can use their mouth or their back to juggle with. I think that makes it a very benevolent (inclusive) art.
I would like to say something from a dance perspective. The first time I saw your performance of Inverted Tree, I truly felt that I wanted many dance people to see it too. There have been times in the history of the dance world when someone with a very different and exceptional physicality comes along and stimulates the whole scene. In the past Butoh and street dance have been that kind of phenomena, and now it is circus. In that sense, I feel that your Inverted Tree being chosen as a finalist work for the Toyota Choreography Award is a very significant thing. Because, in fact many dance people were really surprised and excited by your performance.
I think, artworks that already exist everywhere in the world cannot save anyone.
What do you mean by “cannot save anyone”?
I feel that contemporary dance is a new form of culture that was created by people who thought that neither ballet nor modern dance were right for them and then took response for that stance. And by creating a new type of dace, they were saving, they were providing a form of salvation for other people who thought the existing forms of dance were not for them but didn’t know what to do about it. I believe that art is a repetition of that process, and it isn’t art unless you save someone who isn’t satisfied [with the existing forms of expression], and I feel that life doesn’t have meaning without it.
Originally contemporary dance implied dance of such freedom and diversity that it couldn’t be classified into any existing genre, but eventually, after 30 years since its birth, it has come to be regarded as a genre in itself and, somewhat unfortunately, it has taken on an aspect in which people think it is a home that they must protect.
Listening to you talk, you don’t mention breathing much. In dance today, one’s breathing is a very important element, I believe.
Yes, it is. But, you might say that in my case I am not breathing alone. I want to maintain a very pure relationship with the things [I juggle with], so the way I react when the beanbag moves is everything. For that reason, my breathing or its timing isn’t relevant.
You mean that there is no need for you to control your body by means of a breathing method?
For example, when I am watching the stars in silence, there are moments when I hear a sound like a geeee…
and then my ability to perceive spaces suddenly expands almost explosively. It is a moment when I might feel how high the sky extends, or when I can hear the ripples of water in a distant pond, or I can feel all the way to the opposite side of a building. When that happens, the beanbag in the air appears to be falling slowly, as if it were sinking slowly in some very viscous liquid, then the space around me seems to open up suddenly and the wind dances. When I am in that state I can do any kind of movement. That may be my “breathing method.” It is close to music. I have never practiced any breathing method, and I have never felt the need for one.
But if you get out of breath, you won’t be able to move, will you? Or, maybe you have the ability to breathe through the hair holes in your skin (laughs).
It is a fact that I wear short sleeves even in winter, and if I can’t get down to bare skin and feel the wind, I am uncomfortable. I also get warmed up faster when I can take off [my shirt]. Also, the “skin’s range of motion” is very important for me.
The skin’s range of motion?
For example, try rolling up your sleeve and resting your elbow on the table with the fingers pointing upwards. In this position your hand and fingers can move normally, can’t they? Now, with the elbow still on the table grasp your forearm with the other hand at a point about 15 cm below the wrist and then pull downward on the forearm. This makes the skin stretch taut, right? And, as soon as you do this it becomes harder to move the wrist and fingers, doesn’t it? I call this having the skin in a locked position. Now reverse the direction of the stretch so that you move the skin of your forearm up toward the wrist. This releases the “skin lock” and makes it easy to move your wrist and fingers. This is what I call the skin’s range of motion. No matter how flexible your joints may be, when the skin is stretched taut, it will limit (lock) the movement (flexibility) of the joint. When we speak about flexibility, most people think only about opening the range of motion of the joint, but in fact, the skin is the most organic joint of the body.
I have never heard anyone talk like you just have about the skin as another kind of joint.
I haven’t heard anyone besides myself talking that way either (laughs). In fact, I wonder why no one else realizes it. Because, whenever you move your body the skin is moving. If you use your muscles aggressively, they swell (like in body building, you get more muscular) and that greater mass of muscle stretches the skin and thus reduces its range of motion. So I try to use the muscles as little as possible. Flexibility is not simply a matter of the joints being loose, the skin plays a big part in it too, and my skin stretches like rubber. I use the skin in a number of ways, such as using the skin in a locked state to assist in moving in the opposite direction, or releasing the skin’s lock so it slides and enable energy-efficient motion. I feel that you have to think about the body’s motion not in terms of form but in terms of the flow of energy. I you are thinking about how you want to dance and ignoring the flow of the skin, you will just be creating the kind of wasted motion I call trash.
In connection with this idea, what of ballet?
It is full of a lot of trash. Some people may get angry when I say this, but I see ballet as just a series of poses. I don’t consider movement based on those kinds of poses or conventions of form to be dance. It was truly amazing when Tatsumi Hijikata and the others created the Butoh dance form, because their concept didn’t take Western dance as the standard but said that the clenched body braced against the cold wind of the farmlands of Japan’s northern Tohoku region was also a viable form, and I believe that was saying that you should be able to use the things that your own body is best at. And with that defiant approach, Hijikata danced in tune with the flow of his own body. That is the same thing that I am doing, and there are even times when I feel that what I am doing is in that sense Butoh. However, within the Butoh school, if you are only copying the forms that others have created, it is no different from ballet, and I don’t consider it to be dance.
I have gone to France and to Canada to see contemporary circus, and what I felt most strongly from it is exactly what you have just been talking about. Even in contemporary circus where the focus is largely on the bodies and physicality of the performers, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to the question of why they present juggling in this stage context, and it seemed to me that there is a need to re-address the question of what it means to use balls and juggle.
That’s right. And that’s why the piece I am thinking about now is one that doesn’t use balls or beanbags. The important thing is my body that has been trained through juggling, and it will probably involve the relationship that comes from interacting with things that happen to be there in a given time and place. The true essence of juggling is what you can do with the tools at hand. When you are placed in a new environment without the tools that you are used to using, that is when you must draw on your vital force more than ever. That is the kind of work I am thinking about now.
I have heard that you will be moving your base of activities overseas from 2017. I hear that you will be going to France first, and what are your plans going forward?
Due to some recent developments, my activities with the company Atama to Kuchi will be mainly involving just myself and our coordinator Sakurako Gibo. Our plans going forward, including some that are not yet finalized, involve invitations to perform in France, Austria, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan and to do creation work as well. I have already moved out of my home in Japan, so I have no permanent residence at the moment, but I am finding this condition of having no home to be quite wonderful. Because, there is no place that I have to go back to (laughs).
In fact, right now I am personally doing a “Survival Project.” It is bothersome to have the feelings that I have to put clothes on, I have to go back where I left my bicycle, I have to go back home, etc. I want to think about these kinds of troublesome thing and environment from the standpoint of juggling. Having to get grants and work at part-time jobs in order to keep juggling; these kinds of societal restraints are also troublesome. Everyone appears to be having such a hard time, but I think we are now in an era when it isn’t necessary to suffer like that. I want to get rid of those societal constraints and repression and just do juggling full-time!
You are saying some pretty amazing things all of a sudden, aren’t you?
In order to do nothing but juggling all the time, I want to live using as little money as possible. I don’t want generate trash whenever possible. The other day when I went to the mountains to gather edible plants, I also did things like jumping streams and doing some rock-climbing on sheer boulders. I don’t need to do training, because the environment naturally gets me jumping (streams) and hanging from boulders. Because I went barefoot, I could also experience and gather information (through my feet) about coldness and warmth, and wind and sunlight. But living in society as we do, we have lost the very opportunity to use the body in these ways. It is not that I want to become a nature person, but I do want to be as pure and beautiful as living (sentient) creatures can be and should be. So, in that sense, I am searching for ways to become “an animal in human form.”
In other words, through this “survival” you want to open up new senses as a sentient being?
I have an idea of juggling as something that can rise to the higher levels of dance and music. Musicians make music by training and refining the relationship between the musical instrument and their body. Dancers also perform based on the relationship between the floor and their body and jugglers pursue the dynamic relationship between their juggling tools and their body. All of these involve the relationship between the human being and some thing, and I could even go on to say the relationship between the human being some thing and the environment they are in, but there is no activities that encompasses those three in their entirety. That is what I am seeking to do. Speaking in larger terms, by seeking the essence of juggling in the relationship between the human being (me), things and the environment they (we) are in, I believe that it is possible to change the way one lives.