Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Baseball a kind of play on life.

If you like baseball, you know the score. Baseball players stand alert and astutely prepared in every inning of the game. No player knows what’s going to happen. Every player can expect only the unexpected. Players on defense tense their muscles and focus their minds to react properly to the trajectory of the ball in play. The batter trains his eyes to smash a hit. The infield and outfield players poise themselves to deny it. In baseball, as in the game of life, competition breeds tension between those desiring to win. People in real life tauten for the unexpected too because life guarantees unexpected turns of event.

If you know about baseball, you're aware a baseball coach trains his team to win. He practices his team. His ball players gain proficiency and expertise with repeated practice. The spirit of the team escalates the more it realizes improvement due to practice. The practice instills confidence. When the ball game starts, the players act instinctively to do what the twist of the situation requires. The main benefit of repeated practice.  In the game of life, training and practice serve us well to improve too. We learn how to work a trade by working the trade. We learn how to behave by practicing behaviors and comparing results. We learn how to think by practicing logic. The repetitions of practice in baseball as in life eventually spawn wins and recognition.

If you know about the game of baseball, you know an umpire calls the plays by a set of rules. They apply to every player. They order the game. They set boundaries within which the game is played. If a batted ball goes over the foul line it’s out of play. If a player catches a fly ball the batter is out. If a batter swings and misses a pitch outside the strike zone, it’s a strike and not a ball. Four balls put a batter on first base.  In life the rules of law fix the boundaries of the game. Burglarize a house and you’re out of bounds. Assault somebody and you’ve broken the rules. Without laws and penalties in life, as in baseball, the game couldn’t be played. It would have no regulations within which to play. Some baseball rules reflect life in great actuality. In life if a man steals but doesn’t get caught, he’s safe.  In baseball, let’s say a runner is on first base. If he sprints for second and arrives without getting tagged, he’s safe too, he’s still in the game and that’s called a steal.

If you enjoy baseball, you know that even for those of us who like the game the most, it can be mundane. Players do at times exhibit extraordinarily adept catches, for instance, but that’s rare. Baseball fans focus on the intricacies of the game to maintain interest. They count the balls and strikes. Life gets boring too. Car accidents don’t happen every day. We could easily bore ourselves by not staying current with matters that maintain our interest in life.    

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Progress depends on the degree of acceptance.

Fingerprints identify with 100% accuracy. They spell on your flesh the mark of you. That you are indeed unique.

But we have not been formed in a vacuum. We not only have traits and predispositions genetically inherited, but also the customization of time and place which form and mold us as well.

Much of the family, religious and cultural influences that had molded me by the time I entered young adulthood were part of a self-structure I tried to dislodge. These influences felt like clamps bolting me in an intolerable juxtaposition. Their pressures did not contain me in a temperate way, it seemed; rather, they stifled in a way that punished my individuality.

I revolted and attempted, so to speak, to break out of jail, not only in personal sense but in public sense. Drugs smashed the gates of inhibition which denied pleasure the fullness of its enjoyment. I lived on little and learned the lifestyle of the poor. I joined in protest which seethed against war in Vietnam.

Did I go too far? Did I attempt to ordain a new self without that which had been given by cultural influence? These inhabited my character. How could I dispense them as if they were not an indissoluble part of me? We must work with what we have been given. We cannot strip ourselves of all that we are save the biologic and genetic. However, with mallet, chisel and stain--- we can carve and color the fusion of inside and outside material into a work of our choosing.   

The Greatest Generation deserves respect, but less so for finding no fault in the system their children eschewed so universally, so markedly. The civil rights and counter culture movements generated the modern era push to replace hallow ideals with realities of liberty protected by law. People today have been released from social stigmas in ways unheard of 50 years ago. Does not the boomer generation deserve credits of respect for this? I think it does; but less so for its all-embracing and singular contempt at the time for the Establishment; i.e. heaping scorn on the war with scant differentiation between soldier and policy. A sign of the fracas of conflicting hot emotion, few realize hippies were also at times thrown in jail on no ground except the length of their hair.

As ought an individual to accept and modify, to work on the genetic and the nurtured parts of his makeup to shape himself for the better, so ought society. Congress abolished slavery and re-united the country only after the bloody work of the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act was enacted only after the works of march, protest and politics garnered support for its passage by most of the public. 

Let the United States accept its constituencies. They represent aspects of our nationhood that appeared in the cultural and historical matrix of generations extending far into the past. These aspects represent what we have and need to work on to improve our society.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Books can make readers of us all.

If you don’t read books, you’re missing out, period. I would say this is true so much so that for those of you who have never made a practice of reading books---train yourself to read. If you strive to overcome natural disinclination, you’ll likely discover the reward worth the payment of time and energy. Everybody has interests. Begin by reading a book on a subject of interest. It's not only a way to learn, it feeds an innate hunger to know.

If you have relapsed; if you used to read books but don’t anymore, start reading again. You’ll likely find that without realizing, you wholeheartedly miss the pleasure of reading an outstanding book.

For a time I myself experienced book reading relapse. I attribute part of this to years of working tiresome graveyard shift hours---part to being enamored of digital chat rooms---and part to the internet in general. Binge watching popular Netflix TV series grabs plenty of time and interferes with book reading mode. To learn how to navigate computers and accomplish internet related feats---these can easily slice hours off of time needed, even for sleep.

So yes, this had been my case for a time---until several years ago when someone gifted a novel by Patricia Cornwell to me. I realized what I had been missing by not reading books. That intriguing novel of suspenseful fiction resuscitated my love of reading. Its importance stood higher after. When I finish a book now, I start another. I have erected walls to guard my disposition to read books. These walls guard against what I view as the siege of the internet age threatening to rid me of time alone with books that move my spirit in no other way possible.

Books offer so much of value. By making time to read books, we can transport ourselves a thousand years back and discover a world of medieval belief, practice and stunning turns of history. As we read our minds display images we ourselves imagine. Books invite us to feel sympathies and antipathies for characters whose strength or weakness we may find reflected in ourselves or others. Sometimes as we read a book we’re gratified at how it draws us into a world where we’ve always yearned to really live. Reading books sometimes comforts us with a message of hope. At other times it agitates us to take action for a particular cause. History for instance credits the 1962 book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as the spring board of the environmental movement.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

No one can ever take away your victories.

Sometimes people get in a mood. It’s a feeling of defeatism. It can be dispiriting when you count your defeats and conclude you’ve lost too many battles. You feel hamstrung by what you think is a malediction. You back away from challenges for fear of another defeat. Maybe you think the term “lazy” applies to you when it’s simply part of many aspects to your character.

I’ve recently been feeling these kinds of ways; but not now. I’m focusing on writing a post and whenever I do that it feeds the sense there are winning ways about me.

Counting your victories balances the scale between defeat and victory. That’s why it’s a good thing. Small victories add up. Maybe you finished reading a book about the Middle Ages. Maybe you had a front end alignment completed on your car. Maybe you’ve maintained a worthwhile relationship with a friend or sibling for a good many years.

The point is we live with our defeats and victories; they amalgamate into shades so that none of us can claim an absolute sterling record or a total series of unmitigated failure.

Someone may have failed in a business after three years of operation. But during those years he discovered a confidence and ability he never before had. Another may have failed in marriage but won a loyal friend in his ex-wife.  Still another may have quit smoking for a year, only to take it up again last week. All of these demonstrate how victory and defeat intermingle and coalesce into progress.

It’s tricky when people judge us according to our accomplishments---our step on the ladder of status.  Since the background and extenuating circumstances of a life dwell unseen, they are rarely taken into account by those judging. What appears of no account may often in fact exist as tremendous personal victory.

Achieving a sense of contentment with one’s lot in life is no small accomplishment itself. The forces of random events can play havoc with one’s dreams or expectations. So much of life is outside our control. You’ve heard it said no doubt that mastery over oneself is the greatest victory obtainable. This means learning to control the emotions. Without that control emotions spur us into action. The mind and its reasoning ought to be in charge so we live on a higher plane. Defeat is often the child of unharnessed emotion.

If we learn from a defeat, that lesson can guide us to victory in another time and place. It’s like there really is no junk. It’s all good. The refuse picked up once a week pays the garbage man his salary. What’s learned in a scientific failure is critical to utilize for the next successful scientific venture.

Limitations of character ought to be accepted as part of oneself. How can effort apply to improve character if its limitations are not acknowledged?  And don’t forget from time to time to bask in the sun of your accomplishments.