#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.

#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…

#2

“Eloquence is the poetry of prose.” William Cullen Bryant

I should be confident, self-assured, and unafraid. I should not be projecting those, but instead, I should be living them. I think about my coding, the random collisions of DNA that have made who I am, and it’s easy to see from where I have come. There are the hardscrabble lives of northern and southern grandparents who fought bottles and poverty to contribute to who I am. There are parents who have cared deeply and allowed me to absorb the best and worst of who they are so that I might become something.

I’m not sure where I came from, grandparents, parents, or both. Isn’t DNA nothing but a set of words, instructions, or some kind of code that sort of lets us go on being what was? Some would argue that somewhere in that genetic manual of life, there is a different set of instructions, something mystical, divine, or magical that allows us to interpret our blueprint in the way that we see fit, perhaps that is free will.

Free will is our behaviors, the things we do and no matter what the genes say we are supposed to be. I hesitate, criticize myself, and act without conviction on so many levels. Those are my choices. Submit an idea…maybe tomorrow. Here’s a post…I suck as a writer. I’m going to lose weight…after I eat this carton of donuts. It’s wrong and I have only my DNA to blame, right?

No.

I should recognize that DNA is simply poetry. A combination of stanzas that describe the beauty of who I can be. I should emphasize the mysticism, divinity, and magic of the unknown by applying each to me. I am a mystic, able to perceive the world in a way that no one else can understand. I have been touched by divinity, knowing that higher powers exist than those seen in our present way. I am a magician free to create illusions while knowing that they are not real.

The truth is that I am an idea. One that is constantly being refined, evolving, and hopefully turning out improved versions. Damn the DNA. Thanks for the DNA. Damn free will. Thanks for free will.

Figuring it out…

#1

He said, “It’s all about the questions.”

I knew he was right, but I had my doubts about whether I wanted to answer the questions or not. Sometimes honesty has a hard time for those with a lack of confidence in personal matters.

“It’s the rabbit holes, that’s where the oil is, black gold, Beverly Hillbillies kind of stuff. You’ve got to go there to know.”

I was lost. The days of getting by with a simple throwaway line where gone. Twenty-four hours after being verbally assaulted by a kid I knew from long ago as to whether people can truly, “just survive,” or are they destined to greatness by the role they play in society and I could feel those insecure feelings coming on again.

I went for some distraction, “Come on, let’s go to Pet Value and see if we can relive life circa ’08. Little did I know, that answers happen with a randomness that cannot be explained.

The walk from one outrageously priced department store proved an event. We stopped with our feet surrounding a large, green beetle. It didn’t move, but my son and I knelt next to it. He said, “That’s a big beetle.”

“You’re damn right, I AM a damn-big, green beetle,” said the damn-big, green beetle.

It rubbed its hind legs together and a soft sound rose into the air. The hymn wasn’t really coming from the rubbing of his legs, but rather from the whirr of mosquito wings buzzing. The little bloodsuckers accepted the beetle’s orders, flew in formation, and took aim at my ankle. As they each set to the task of biting where I could barely reach, my ankle began to swell. I was hobbling along with a tomato above my foot. Finally, we were out of range of the mosquitos.

The store was uneventful. The cats made for inappropriate humor that might play well in Nevada, but nowhere else. In fact, I prayed that no one heard our joke lest we are brought up on charges by the social media hit squads that troll the world looking for ways to make everything more miserable than it already is.

We left Pet Value and walked straight across the parking lot without any care for the conventions normally associated with safe parking lot locomotion. Instead of using the sidewalk, we crossed horizontally, ignoring the aisles. More importantly, we protected ourselves from the damn-big, green beetle and his air force of marauding mosquitos. The truck offered us refuge and transportation.

The day ended with some Grateful Dead, Marcus King, and Marshall Tucker talk. What is it about music that keeps things going? The songs, the notes, and the creative energy must tap into a basic life dimension that we somehow miss out on when we are left to the sounds of our own voices. We use music to venture into other places, silencing self-talk and quieting all of our silly personal inquiry. Maybe, today was my first attempt at answering my questions. Music is a part of what I am.

Peace.