Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tennis Treatment

When school ends I’m often plagued by a feeling there’s something I
should be doing. Multiple projects compete for my newly released
attention but I’m wary of pouncing on anything too fervently just yet.
I see it as like the rebound effect after a relationship breaks up
where there’s a tendency to be too quick to grab a replacement.
So I’m grateful when along comes Wimbledon, tennis on a lawn, the
pinnacle of the sport where with all the rest of the highly refined
skills, adaptation comes into play, grass less predictable than a
manufactured surface.
And quickly I’m saying Wow! And Geez! Just like a kid. I’m pulled out
of my head and immersed in admiration. My endorphins and dopamine are
flowing with the pleasure of witnessing outstanding athleticism, the
beauty of one-on-one contests between the best in the world. Seeing
the best inspires me do my best, to feel the pleasure that always
accompanies involvement in a challenge, resonating with capability in
action. Just like beauty guides us to rightness with proper
proportions and balanced alignment, watching excellence brings out the
best in us. Here the sport becomes art, physically like dance but
mentally more like jazz in that the skills must be mastered and
thoroughly internalized before the artist can play.
Watching Pironkova threaten Sharapova (Maria won) and Rosol threaten
Nadal (Rafa lost) is seeing the new blood rising and pushing the
accomplished to greater heights. When the underdog wins, it inspires
the younger players with a sense of possibility Different opponents
stretch the game in new directions and push champions into new
I’m still disoriented but now I’m happy. Vicarious excellence brings
out the urge to cultivate it in myself, to build skills and craft and
press the edges of possibility. I’m addicted to working because how
else will I find out what I’m capable of. And the great brain
chemistry proves that evolution supports an attitude like this as good
for survival. I remind myself of Michael Faraday’s advice to aspiring
scientists, to start anywhere- you get everywhere important
eventually- its not the specific project, but what’s learned through
the work- building new mental circuits and experience to draw on in
the future. It doesn’t matter much what skill we’re building, it’s the
extension of our power that makes the difference.
SO. We’re in the middle weekend of Wimbledon, the run up to the finals
next Saturday and Sunday, a week of opportunity to get batteries
charged by excellence. Pay attention and be amazed.

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