Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Who You Are

Belmont 1973
The movie, Secretariat, opened September 30, 2010.  We were at the theater to see it and we weren't disappointed.  In fact, it was even better than I imagined it would be.

That was almost seven years ago and other than occasionally listening to Oh Happy Day, by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, I've had no contact with the movie since.  For some reason it came up in conversation last weekend and we decided to watch it again.  Once again we were inspired by the story and blown away by the presentation.  And then we received a bonus.

At the end of the credits, long after we had left the movie seven years ago, a song from the movie's sound track played.  A song that retold the story of the magnificent horse, and at the same time, promised the same glory for anyone who would understand and act on its message.  This time we heard it.  Now you can hear it.

"You Choose Your Race And Then You Run."

If life can be reduced to a two-step process, that's it.  Other factors, subsets of those two steps, often keep us from appreciating the simplicity of the process.

For example, years of conditioning can keep us from seeing that the choice of the race we'll run is our choice.  When we lose sight of that, we often let someone or something else choose our race or even worse, we don't make a choice at all - we stand off-stage waiting for the final curtain.

And then there's the running or to be more exact, there is how we run.  Again, we are often overwhelmed by choices: just get by or go all out;  run strong to the end or quit at the first sign of trouble.

The choices are ours and not making a choice is one of the possibilities.  How we execute the choice we make is also ours, even when we allow something outside us to set our pace.

Keep it simple - and have fun.

PS:  Here's a tribute to Secretariat you might enjoy.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Last House

Rainer Maria Rilke

I tend to read the same poets again and again.  At those readings, I often hear Mark Twain chuckle and say, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

Note - if you are a serious student of Mark Twain, you know that most Samuel Clemens scholars have come to the conclusion that he didn't say that.  But since we don't know who did, and it sounds like something he would have said, I'm sure I'll continue hearing him say it every time I pick up Basho or Bly, Buson or Cummings, Barks or Lawrence, and especially when I read Rilke.  

Since I first crossed paths with Rainer Maria Rilke, at least forty years ago, I've walked much further along the way he knew and described, such that I feel it passing beneath my feet as I reread his words.  I smell its rich earthy scent on the wind, when I close my eyes and recall particularly meaningful passages.

Then I know the soul of the Panther of whom Rilke said:

Only sometimes the curtains of the pupils
soundlessly slide up.  Then an image enters,
goes through the limbs taut stillness -
and in the heart ceases to exist.

And now, more than any time since Rainer Maria Rilke and I first met, I know what he meant when he wrote:

Whoever you are, go out in the evening,
Leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite...

I also know why many of his translators omit that last line from their translation of Initiation.  It is startling when one first realizes that the only thing that separates each of us from the oneness of all is the flimsy affair that we've constructed from rumors, tales, misconceptions, and lies: the thing we call home.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Collaboration Of Sorts

This is a stained glass depiction of William of Occam, an English Franciscan friar, who was both a student and teacher of logic.  At his core, Occam believed that science was a matter of discovery and God was the only necessity in understanding the nature of being.  In other words, Occam believed faith in God was all that one required.

He probably stated it this way, "God is all you need to know..."  If he did say that, or anything similar, no one remembered or bothered to write it down.  What they did remember him saying was, "The simplest answer is usually the correct one (my paraphrase)," or, to use Bertram Russell's description of what is commonly known as Occam's Razor, "If one can explain a phenomenon without assuming this or that hypothetical entity, there is no ground for assuming it."

Over 300 years after William of Occam espoused his universally known and accepted method of logic, Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning physicist, gave us The Feynman Method, a practical learning/teaching application of  Occam's Razor.

Feynman's four step method works this way: (1) Write the name of the concept (2) Write down an explanation, in plain English, that includes both what you understand and what you don't quite know (3) Review what you've written focusing on what you don't know, then repeat step 2 (4) Review your wording.  If you are using overly wordy or confusing language simplify.

That's it, Feynman using Occam to create a simple, effective heuristic learning method.

To wrap it up, the third member of my imagined collaboration said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society which honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Albert Einstein

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lost In The Lights

Bryce Harper

"Where did July go?"

That's the way I began yesterday's journal entry.  Then, as it does on occasion, my pen didn't pause at the end of the sentence.

Continuing on its own the pen wrote, "July didn't go anywhere.  It got lost in the lights."

I looked at the line, thought about it a few seconds, and then wrote, "I don't get it."

"I know," the pen continued... "July got lost in the lights like a long fly ball."

Not sure where this was going, I wrote... "Lost by whom?  Where?"

Magically, the words flowed from the nib, "Lost by a baseball player during a night game. At the sound of the bat hitting the ball, he senses it is heading toward him.  Raises his head.  Locks his sight on the ball and begins to run backwards while trying to hold the ball in his sight... then the ball rises and passes directly between a light and the player's line of sight.  For a moment, he loses sight of it.  If he doesn't regain it quickly, the ball falls uncaught."

"That doesn't happen to Bryce Harper," I wrote.

My smart ass pen didn't hesitate, "Bryce doesn't play the way most outfielders play.  He hears the ball hit.  Focuses on its trajectory. Mentally computes where it is going to land.  Turns his back on the ball and sprints to that spot.  Turns around and catches it."

The pen waited while I thought about that.  I considered the times I'd seen Bryce do it that way and tried to recall another player using that technique.  None came to mind, so I wrote.  "Why doesn't everyone do it that way?"

"Because they don't trust themselves."

"What's that got to do with July?"

The pen didn't hesitate, "To trust yourself is to do what you know is right and do it instantly - without hesitation.  When you do that, you do not drop balls or lose time.  Not a month, a day, or even a second... you lose nothing."

I shook my head and wrote, "So August begins, just where I knew it would."