#11

“The wise prudent man will draw a useful lesson even from poison itself, whilst the precepts of the wisest man mean nothing to the thoughtless.” Lokman

I came across this quote in an excerpt from Yusef Komunyakaa’s journal in a book called “The Poet’s Notebook” (1995). I’ll claim ignorance on the Lokman-Aesop history, but reading about who they were has been interesting, enlightening, and entertaining. Learning is everywhere and the quote suggests that there are lessons to be learned if only we remain open to the opportunity to learn.

Given the present state of affairs in the United States (and I suspect the rest of the world…throughout all of history), I would hope the people are wise and prudent in the acceptance of the messages sent by:

Republicans-Democrats…
Politicians-Activists…
Special Interest Groups-Religions…
Foreign Governments-Our Government…

Unless we seek to understand the motivations and messages of those who control everything, they will continue to rule us in the hyperkinetic way that does nothing more than confuse us. That is their poison, know that and deny personal and collective thoughtlessness. Only through thoughtful action can the present turmoils be alleviated.

#9

“I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude. The coaches must have it. The players must have it. The student body must have it. If you have dedicated players who believe in themselves, you don’t need a lot of talent.” -Bear Bryant

Two old ball coaches were sitting in a bar talking a great deal of shit. Mostly they were making fun of each other’s beers, Lite for one, snooty oak barrel nectar for the other. All the trash talking was in good nature and neither ever took anything personally. Somewhere after the third or fourth beer, the conversation changed.

“Why don’t we try each others’ beer? The next round, you go Lite and I’ll go snooty,” said the more experienced of the two coaches.

“How come?” asked the older but more inexperienced coach.

“Well, I think it’s good to have a different perspective. Figuring out what we’re all about is the way to get better.”

“That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to hang out with me,” said the snooty beer drinking and less experienced coach. “I’ll buy.”

“And that’s why I keep you around.”

The beers came and each tasted their new brew with a cautious hesitation. The beers were different but inviting. Both were cold, the Lite beer was crisp and the snooty beer was sweet but the new beers were good for both.

“I heard the Dali Llama said it doesn’t matter what you drink since it all comes out the same way,” said the original snooty beer drinking coach.

“My kind of conduit to the cosmos,” said the other coach.

The funny thing about these two was that they could not be more alike in their different approaches to life. Practical, theoretical, wide open, seriously reserved, a fast-moving storm, a brooding grudge carrying addict…

Yet, with all of that, they understood a few things in the same way.

Coaches prepare players to find success.

Players play.

The games are about learning how to succeed, not winning or losing.

Parents can be a little much.

About the time that the beers were running low a man and his wife walked into the bar. They started walking towards the two old ball coaches and the tension for the original snooty beer drinking coach rose as these parents were a little too much for him.

“Would you?” asked the original Lite beer drinking coach.

“I’d rather drink Budweiser.”

Enough said.

#8

“Sports is such a great teacher. I think of everything they’ve taught me: camaraderie, humility, how to resolve differences.” Kobe Bryant

An early morning shootaround with a first time father leading his second-grade son into the gym held much more excitement than the downpour outside. The son, all three feet of him dribbled a basketball with a confidence that was just what his father dictated. Dad, all six feet four inches of him, walked with the strut of a former basketball player, the arrogance beguiling his sense of failure for never made to the next level.

They shot for a few minutes. The father coached his son.

“Square up, come on this is basic stuff.”

“Don’t fade away, you’ll never be a good shooter if you fade away all the time.”

“You think you can play high school with that dribbling?”

The son took the coaching like a puppy getting yelled at for peeing on the floor. His head dropped. He moved to the edges of the court. He left the hope of fun he had when his father asked him to go shoot hoops at the Y.

For his part, the father thought he was doing the right thing.

Fast forward thirty or forty years. The son is grown. The father is getting weaker. The son towers over his slumping father as they walk onto a basketball court. The father is dribbling with a slapping motion, more like an elementary aged kid that a former low-level college hoops star. Dad takes his shots. They have a hard time getting to the rack. His motion is disjointed from years of servitude to the couch, the atrophying of muscles, and the mental slippage due to loss of brain mass.

The son totally accepted his father’s lead. He never made much of himself as a basketball player. He did, however, make the most of his father’s parenting example.

“You think you can play in heaven with a shot like that?”

“Come on, get down when you dribble. They’ll steal the ball without any trouble.”

“Do some push-ups, you can’t even get the ball to the rim.”

Sports teach life lessons.

#5

Loveliest of lovely things are they on earth that soonest pass away. William Cullen Bryant

What bad stories did Junior hear? Did his parents berate him? Did they blow smoke up his us, so that when he needed to understand he wasn’t perfect, he didn’t have the skills to comprehend the inaccuracy of the things his parents told him? It’s hard to know because Junior is dead and he never let anyone know what stories led him to the grave.

What we know, Junior loved to drink. Whiskey was his choice and it interfered with his life to the point where he spent several stints in the detention center and lost his license to drive. That made working tough, as he was a handyman with a buffet of skills. Too bad he didn’t have a way to get to his jobs and the liquor store was just a short walk away.

He left a wife and stepdaughter, yet nobody knew much about either. All who knew Junior commented on his abilities. He could fix any car. He’d listen to the motor and diagnose the problem right away. His mother thought he got that from her father, but she wasn’t so sure. Others remarked that he laid the perfect line with bricks, an informally trained stonemason who just had a knack for putting rocks, bricks, and tiles right where they needed to be. Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, Junior could do it all.

But he loved to drink. He would put away a fifth like it was water and before long he would be drunk and unable to get home without risking a date with the law. Then he had a seizure and his speech started to go. His thirst remained. His work was still high quality, but his ability to get where he needed to go was gone.

Junior then told himself more bad stories. He talked to himself about being a failure, a burden, and a waste. A few loyal friends asked God to intervene in Junior’s life, but Junior seemed to think that he had pissed the big fella off and that no help was coming. It was only with Old Grand Dad that Junior could escape and after the seizure, he spent time with his firebrand grandfather.

There are too many Juniors out there…

#3

“Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.” William Cullen Bryant

This is the story of a man who only knew how to say, “yes.” Whenever he was asked to do something, “yes,” was his answer. No matter how awful the job, he was agreeable. No matter how much he had going on, he would accommodate the person asking for a favor. In some circles, he was seen as a patsy. Others thought he was the next coming.

The problem was that the Yes-man was having a hard time figuring out what was the best for him. He wanted to be able to say “No,” but each time he tried, all that came out his mouth was, “yes.” He would feel angry at himself for always contradicting his urge to say “no” and the anger built inside him to a point where he could no longer stand himself.

He made a decision to drive to the wilderness. He parked at the bottom of a mountain at the end of a long-forgotten logging road. The bumps had jarred him endlessly and made him more angry at himself. His car was one dusty mess, much like his constitution.

He grabbed a backpack, which had water, food, a copy of “The Art of the Deal,” and he headed for the mountain. He walked all day. When the trail ended, he was only half the way up the mountain, so he took a drink of water and continued his climb. Early the next morning, he reached the peak. The sun was rising in the east and the orange rays had yet to reach his thrown.

He sat on an exposed piece of rock that jutted out from the mountain like a diving board. He took out his copy of the treatise of a man who would be President and began reading. He figured that with all of the behaviors that had been on display for the last year and a half that he might be able to glean a “no” from this text on how to swindle the world.

The Yes-man read and read. The pages did their job as far as being entertaining, but they had the opposite effect on the Yes-man. Instead of thinking about saying, “no,” he began to say “yes” to his negative thoughts. He thought about how easy it would be to simply give in to those thoughts and start treating people like shit instead of trying to help them. He realized that it is easier to be an uncaring dick than it is to treat people with respect and dignity. Being nice required sacrifice and that never came up in the book.

Just when the Yes-man was going to settle for the negative yes approach, he had another thought, “If I jump, I don’t have to worry about either.” He stood, waited for a nice gust, and then jumped. Somehow he defied gravity and caught one of the rising sun’s rays. He rode it like a surfer all the way back to his office.

“George, can you get me five hundred copies of these in an hour?”

“Yes, sir. I can,” said the Yes-man.

And his affirmative life continued…