[lit-ideas] Re: German Gymnasts Say Scots Lack Imagination Re. the Caber, Prophet Responds

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2004 16:04:19 -0800

on 12/2/04 3:21 PM, Mike Geary at atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> "NEW YORK (Reuters) -- He spoke for a generation when he sang "The times they
> are a-changin"' in 1964 and it all came true. But Bob Dylan says he's no
> prophet."
> Aw, man.  You can't trust anybody anymore. Now I gotta start all over.
> Anybody know a real, for-sure prophet?
> 
I've met one and a son.  The one was a disciple of Gandhi.  I remember his
name as Lonzo del Vastro, but I can't bring him up on google.  He wrote a
book, "Return to the Source," which I have somewhere, but have never read.
He had the inner glow thing down pat; he silently gave out the suggestion
that he was perfectly at peace.  Very impressive.  I met him when some
French friends were protesting the proposed conversion of the Larzac--a high
plain in the Midi-- into a training ground for tanks.  It was the prophet's
view that no good could come of this.  He was right.  It would, among other
things, have frightened the sheep and ruined the rocquefort--the sheep were
the source of milk for the cheese.

The son was a fellow whose father you might know from Siegfried Sassoon's
account of a half-mad colonel who gave him a lecture about the spirit of the
bayonet.  Colonel Campbell went on, after to the war, to a position as
Director of Physical Training at Edinburgh University.  Among his prophesies
was that boxers would do well to skip with ropes, which now they do.  He was
apparently a very popular director of physical training.

All prophets have slightly bad days.  Colonel Campbell could properly blame
the Germans for one of his.  I quote from Campbell's biography, "Prophet in
Plimsoles," [plimsoles are training shoes] "The Colonel's 'log-and-stick
exercises' have a curious history.  During the later Victorian era, German
gymnasts visiting the Highland Games in Scotland were impressed by the
tossing of the caber.  They felt, however, that the Scots made very limited
use of the caber and on their return to Germany they developed a series of
exercises which made use of the heavy pole.  Colonel Campbell came across
the heavy pole exercises while in Germany.  He realized the potential and
continued their development into a series of intricate movements using poles
and sticks of various sizes.
"Colonel Campbell is possibly the only Briton this century to 'invent' a
completely native system of physical training.  Most of the systems commonly
used in this country are continental in origin, i.e. Swedish drill, German
gymnastics.  In Colonel Campbell's case, there is no doubt that over the
years he gradually brought to perfection a system of physical training all
his own, based on the imaginative use of poles, sticks and other simple
objects."

Where now is log-and-stick drill?  Long ago overwhelmed by the griff nach
der Weldmacht of German gymnastics.

The biography, should you want to seek it out, is by John G. Gray.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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