When I was a little girl, there was a local TV show called The Sandy Becker Show. Sandy played a lot of different characters, and seemed to have a wonderful time. One of his characters was called The Big Professor. My mother always ran in to watch the Big Professor, who answered questions sent in by the TV audience. She always tried to answer the question first.
One day, she said, “You should write to him and ask him ‘who is Nicholas Copernicus?’ I bet he never heard of him.” I had surely never heard of him, and since my mother was the smartest person in the world, I agreed to stump the Big Professor. Imagine my delight one day when the Big Professor opened a piece of paper and said, “Here’s a question from Lavinia Plonka. Who was Nicholas Copernicus? Oh ho ho, really Lavinia. Do you think the Big Professor would not know this answer? Why everyone knows that Nicholas Copernicus was the first person to say the earth travels around the sun! You have to send me harder questions, Lavinia!”
“Humph,” my mother said. “He didn’t even mention that he was Polish.” She stormed out of the room.
What stuck for me was the idea that Nicholas Copernicus discovered something amazing that is now so obvious. It reminds me of Moshe Feldenkrais insisting that the aging brain can still learn, or that the mind and the body are the same thing. When he first talked about these ideas, it was almost heresy. He didn’t want to publish his last book, The Potent Self, because he wrote about the connection between physical habits and emotional health. (It was published posthumously.) Likewise Copernicus had to hide his ideas till his death for fear of the Inquisition. Thank goodness people no longer get burned at the stake for a new idea.
I for one look forward to the day when a Big Professor turns to a little girl and says, “Feldenkrais? Why everyone knows that he taught Awareness Through Movement! We do it every day!”