Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rise above

Ever do something that surprises even yourself? Making you realize you don't actually know very much.

About life, reality, and maybe even your self. 

What you are truly capable of. 

Socrates was proclaimed the wisest man in Athens because he knew... that he didn't know... sh*t.

(of course, it was Socrates who did the proclaiming, but all narcissistic considerations aside, we still talk about the dude centuries later, right?)

I first experienced this phenomena at 16. Not that it helped me much along the way - made me smarter, wiser, or better prepared for life - but I really gleaned for the first time ever, way deep down, that I truly didn't know anything. 

And it gave me a glimpse of something larger than myself. But we'll get to that in a bit. Meanwhile...

The vehicle of my little epiphany? A missed dunk. 

For some years previous, I'd ate, slept and defecated the sport of basketball. Hell, I was more like an adherent than a player, I approached it with such religious fervor. 

I'd practice for hours each day, dribbling, shooting, defending -and- as I grew taller and jumped higher, the art of the dunk. 

Dunking was so. F*cking. Cool. Combining grace and power into a creative act. Jim Carroll talks about his feline fluid grace in Basketball Diaries, and yeah, that's how it felt. Animal and primal. 

But though there was room for creativity, those dunks were born of repetition. Tried everything I'd ever seen on TV - reverses, 360's, cuff dunks, one hand, two hand*, etc. ad nauseum - and would usually work 'em over and over again until I got 'em literally down.  

And for a skinny, awkward, adolescent white boy hitching out each day from the dirt-road-sticks to the nearest concrete court - not another living soul within 10 miles - I had a pretty good arsenal. 

But it was all known - nothing new. 

And then one day I did something… unknown.

I was in Illinois, had been playing pick up ball for hours, and there was a break between games. 

In the time honored tradition of 'watch what I can do' I threw the ball off the backboard, attempting a self-administered tip dunk (something I'd done zillions of times previous) but this time...

When I jumped, it was like I was running, upwards into the air (think climbing stairs) and somehow, ala' Bob Beamon, I jumped a foot higher than I ever had before. 

Which, previously, had been eleven feet.

Now it was twelve - high enough to touch the top of the backboard.


I missed it, btw, the dunk - even hit my funny bone on the way down - in a zen-monk-whacking-his-adherent-into-satori-kind-of-moment.

How, you might ask, could I compare such a simple act - not even performed to the point of completion - with the act of enlightenment?

Because I had exceeded the bounds of the known universe. Mine, anyway.

And at the moment I felt like a superman, that I could fly and walk through walls, and that all things were possible... 

And then I tried again.

A few minutes later, after collecting my soul and stuffing it back into my body (because out of body is exactly how that experience felt) I set foot back on the court, ball in hand, to duplicate the act. To master it and myself.

For hours, days, weeks, sometime even years later... I would attempt it - try to remember, in my body, that moment, and relive it. 

Which did not happen.

Ever again.

It has become one of those extraordinary, once in a lifetime kind, out of body experiences - never to be repeated.

(big breath)

Which is pretty much how it felt when I proposed to LB. 

(more to follow)

(isn't there always?)

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