Monday, January 13, 2014

planning the escape

Yesterday, in the run-up to the Superbowl, I watched parts of a couple of (American) football games on TV. I'm not a rabid fan of any particular team or of any particular sport, but there was something enjoyable about watching the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs (24-17) and the San Francisco 49ers roll over the Carolina Panthers (23-10). Idly, I wondered why I liked it.

When I was a kid, my father might occasionally say of someone he admired that the person had "no side." The meaning was not so much a description of a personal position or group affiliation, but rather of a guileless completeness: Right, wrong or indifferent, the person had no side -- there was nothing extra or feigned or secondary in his or her activity. S/he was not trying -- or at any rate did not seem to be trying -- to achieve something else.

And maybe that's what I liked (or felt beckoned to) about the football -- the knowledge that whatever the planning and whatever the goal, there came a moment when there was simply action. And any side -- any memory of planning or goal -- would impede the completeness and hence success of the action itself. This moment, this action was all there was and there was no side to it. (Or, in ick-speak, "it is what it is.") ...! Men on a field in a single nanosecond just doing what they were doing. Doing something else was out of the question and thus the nanosecond was, so to speak, blessed.

Isn't that a magnetic matter for anyone -- the recognition that in whatever the action is, there is this moment in which all the palaver and all the training and all the side simply falls away. It falls away not because there is some religion or philosophy or hope or belief or goodness or evil. It falls away because that is the inescapable nature of all action ... all action all of the time. And perhaps there is some yearning to get on board with what is inescapable ... things are lighter and more attuned that way ... and what the hell, it's just the truth and there's no reason to get your knickers in a twist about it.

So maybe a couple of football teams make things easier to see ... or maybe changing a flat tire works or maybe a kiss or a war or adding the bleach to a laundry cycle. There can't be anything else and yet, this once, there is a moment in which anyone gets with the program ... no more side, no more cloying goals, no more something-else's, no more religio-philosophical psychobabble, no more of the extras that seem to suck a (wo)man down like quick sand, no more incalculable efforts, no more planning, no more goodness or evil... no more side. It may seem like death and it is a death, but just this once, it is alive.

Escaping the inescapable by -- ahhhh -- not escaping.

Curious how hard it is to do what is so palpably and in-your-face easy.

That's the nature of "side" I guess.

On Vulture Peak, Gautama the Buddha held up a single flower. Was he playing football or was he bullshitting? You tell me.

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