Saturday, June 6, 2015

a stand-out performance

When my daughter was in high school (she's 27 and married now), she played third base on the girls' softball team and had a great batting average. She seemed to hit every time she came to bat. Naturally, I cheered like a bandit and it became a standing joke with all my sports-playing kids that they would admonish me: "Pop, please don't yell!" they would plead. I was loud. I was embarrassing. Their request was seldom if ever honored.

And one day, when I was watching my daughter's latest game, I wondered aloud to the softball coach why it was that these young women so seldom hit the long ball. Many of the team members were solidly-built and clearly strong yet the hits that they got seldom went out of the infield and, when they did, it was not by a lot. The team tended to win, but it seldom did so based on some long, soaring hit to the outfield.

When I looked at these young, strong women, in my eye they were people likely to become whatever the female version of the word "mensch" is -- real women, not stick-figure fashion plates whose lives are consumed by shoes or bling ... not nitwits in my eye. They were strong and likely to get stronger ... stronger and echt... no flimsy Kim Kardashians among them ... so why weren't they hitting the long ball of which they were clearly capable?

The coach absorbed my question and then said simply, "They don't want to stand out."

The answer struck me as a real home run.

Everyone would love to stand out (why else would Kim Kardashian gain so much traction?) and yet to stand out is to stand alone and no one, least of all teenaged girls, wants to be alone. So the desire to do well -- or perhaps really excel -- is tempered by the knowledge or suspicion or fear that to excel is to consign the one excelling to a desert island.

What seems yummy and desirable is also eek and repulsive.

And not only is such a conundrum limited to the world of sports or academics. In spiritual life, the same wrestling comes into play. Or anyway that's my guess: It may be that something called "enlightenment" is the capacity and the goal, but the idea of achieving it is repelling and deeply spooky. I may pray my ass off to God or pursue meditation with a will, but if I actually met God face to face or broke into some wondrous state of being ... who would I talk to, hang with, be comforted by? It is in this realm, I suspect, that the question may arise for others as it once arose for me: "What if I go crazy?"

The slick and the savvy have an explanation and a bunch of gooey words to respond with, but the question for the one seeking to hit a homer stands firm ... take your ooey-gooey some place else! I am dying to hit a homer and scared to do precisely that.

The girls had a winning season and even managed a few home runs, but the coach's observation lingers in my mind. A voice within says, "true dat!"

I can't tell anyone else how to solve the difficulty, if the difficulty arises. All I can say is that the keep going -- to begin and then continue -- smooths and soothes the hot fires of a much-praised homer. As a Zen monk whose enlightenment experience had been confirmed said when other monks gathered to congratulate him and one asked, "Is there any change in the problems you've had in the past?"

"Nope. Same old problems."

What a stand-out response.

1 comment:

  1. I expect that to stand alone on your own hind legs is the reality to be realized.