Above: John's hoops and his cat Duncan
The day before Twilight 2011, my husband C. and I arrived in Athens around midnight with our two youngest children in tow. Tornadoes had just swept through our corner of Northwest Georgia, and 24 hours ago we’d all been crouched, along with our dog and 70-something-year-old godfather, in our root cellar. When we crawled out into life without power and internet, we packed our Airstream camper and took to the road. We had already planned to go to Gwinnett County for my stepson’s birthday, but, instead of turning back after our time at Chuck E. Cheese, we just kept going North on I-85. Having graduated from UGA in 2004, I had Athens in mind as a destination. However, I neither knew about the upcoming races nor stayed to enjoy them. Instead the highlight of my Athens adventure happened behind a Baxter Street strip mall where my husband found a tiny slice of spring paradise and set up a temporary campsite for me and our children while he used the coin laundry facility next door. I filled my time by interviewing my old friend John Adams, a former Russell Hall co-ed turned hula-hoop maker, and discovered four little nuggets of wisdom.
1. Evolution happens.
John says, “When you’re a little kid, you get a plastic hula hoop that is really no good.” He continues to imply that, in and of itself, this isn’t a major problem because little kids do seem to have a lot of fun with plastic hula hoops. However, allowing this child’s toy to completely shape your perception is an issue. In reality, there is a whole sub-culture of hula-hoop girls out there who devote a lot of time and attention to the art of hoop dancing and take pride in showing off the results at concerts and creative festivals nationwide. John is inspired by watching these lovely women perform. At the same time, he recognizes that taking such a dualistic, child’s toy vs. serious hoop dancer, approach is limiting. Free-spirited, fun, flexible, durable and individual are some adjectives that describe both John’s hoops and the sort of personally evolving folks for whom they’re made.
2. Struggle is over-rated.
John looks at me then smiles slyly. “You don’t have to exert effort to hula hoop well,” he says. His meaning is that quality hula hoops tend to keep themselves in motion without people going overboard to keep them spinning. I think this is a good metaphor for how people choose to live. If you construct a life plan that is rigid and unoriginal, you may have a difficult time keeping it in motion. However, if you create a life plan that is designed to be personally sustainable, then it takes little added effort to keep it going and reap the rewards. In keeping with this philosophy, John seems open to embracing new ways of living until he finds the one that fits best.
3. Create your own reality.
John reveals that his hula hoops are constructed mainly from irrigation PVC pipe and carefully applied alternating colors of electrical tape. He adds that the internet has been instrumental in helping him make hoops effectively and spread the news about his products. One may say the accessibility of materials and information comes from a willingness to create new uses for existing things and to openly accept the wisdom that others voluntarily share—two more great practices for balanced living.
4. Be natural.
When I think of John, I remember the guy I met while signing our buddy Nora’s petition to have permanent ash trays installed outside Russell Hall. He was tough—always kind of angry but still interested in the world and the lives of the people with whom his life intersected, a young man at the center of both teenage drama and early spiritual awakening. Ten years later, interviewing John about making hula hoops feels strangely natural. Perhaps this is because the motivation behind the work seems so honest and clear. In addition to citing his girlfriend Christen as inspiration, he simply states, “I saw a beautiful thing in the world and wanted people to know about it, to have it.” If the inspiration behind all great ideas were so natural and direct, people would probably have a lot more peace.
To order a customized hoop from John just in time for summer concert season, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.