Recently I read The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, a book that resonated for me in ways I still do not understand. It came at a time when spring seemed to leave me with many restless nights during which I could not stop the noise in my head or the feeling that I needed to do something. Something that mattered.
The art of fielding, for Harbach, is really the art of living a full life and creating a soul that endures: soul being not “something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love.” Fielding or sport, in turn, is an art “which somehow seem(s) to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.”
I do not presume to have learned the art of living a full life or creating a soul, but I do know something about sport. So I decided on my walk out to the Boardwalk today that I wanted to share some of what I know, what I have learned, with my grand-children, not because they won’t learn even more on their own, but because I am compelled to give them a part of me that will last. I can’t help myself. More than self-vanity, it is an act of love, or maybe contrition. I can never be enough for them. I say that thankfully.
So with all apologies for being trite or obvious or just plain foolish for thinking that I know anything of value, here goes:
Above all else, I urge you not to be afraid to love, to risk being hurt or vulnerable; to give up something of yourself. There will be pain and confusion and self doubt as a result, but there will also be joy and release, a sense of connection to something larger, something timeless, that you will not feel otherwise. Let the ego die and a Self will take its place. A Self beyond opposites, beyond time or space. Live and love fully. There’s no time to waste.
Fear and desire cripple us. False desire, that is. By false desire I mean anything we seek to make us feel better about ourselves, usually at the expense of others. Trust yourself. Know who you are and what you believe. Listen to your heart and not the empty chatter or the promises of acceptance that come with a crowd. Everyone will seek you out, admire you, follow you because you do not want the attention, because you are strong enough to know what’s right and do what you love.
Mistakes are not only an option, but a must. You will not learn, not grow without them. This is not to say that you should be reckless. Reflect, consider, ask for help by all means. But in the end be willing to do or say what you believe is right, and accept the consequences. Rarely, if ever, is there only one correct path. Rarely is a straight line as efficient as a circle. Nature works by misdirection. Order arises out of chaos. When one choice fails, another option flourishes. There are no dead ends.
Be open to change, willing to ask questions, unwavering in your search for excellence and truth. Give of yourself fully to your work and to the people in your life and you will be rewarded profoundly. Truth is not so much a dictum, a fact or a detail, an article of faith or solution to a puzzle. It is, instead, a process, a way of being that integrates us and makes us feel whole.
Learn to see. We are blinded by routine and expectation. By bright lights and glamour. By shiny objects and expensive baubles. Where others look high, take the time to look low. Where most take the chosen path, take the road untraveled. There is great virtue in occasionally being lost. Life is better known not through the fence, but between the pickets. It’s the spaces, the gaps, wherein lies potential. Creativity can be learned; it requires letting go.
Nothing of value is accomplished without hard work and patience, time and persistence. No obstacle too big, no challenge too difficult, if there is sufficient resolve. But that value is diminished if we cannot laugh, enjoy the moment, “dance” along the way. Let your work be your play, and do not be surprised if what you achieve is not what you expected. The greatest rewards are unanticipated. Time past and time future are really time present. The goal is the journey, not the finished product. Endlines and trophies are hollow and illusory.
Living fully takes courage and toughness, resilience and faith. There’s no ultimate judgment, no necessary purpose, no meaning beyond life itself. Nature lives by rules we cannot obey. And so we define ourselves by stories, trusting in our senses but knowing their limitations and searching for a better way. We remain open to people, to possibility, to beauty. And when an answer arrives upon our doorstep, we are grateful for having received it, for the privilege and the sheer glory of having been made awake.
There is no room for excessive pride or casting blame. We create reality. What we imagine becomes true for us. Take responsibility for your story. For those who cannot, have compassion and empathy, respect for the inevitable sorrow we all know in some way. Life is joyous and bountiful, but inevitably unforgiving. We distinguish between opposites, but Nature does not. Respect the mystery, the lightness of being. Find balance and pace.