Major at Williams: Not English but should have been
Once upon a time a Williams graduate decided to become a seeker. As the word/noun/verb imputes, he did much seeking and little (if any) finding. Despite no great profound truths nor enlightenment, he did find Shakespear's sonnets (once they were explained to me). These were impressive - I had to try it too.
Hundreds of poems later, here are my favorite three.
Around the turn of the millennium, the tyranny of rhyme won and I switched to prose essays. My second book of essays is in process. My very favorite short prose piece is included. May you find something here.
"Take It Out of the Equation"
“What is it? And where’d you get that equation?
Must be a tough task to require such math.”
“Oh no! It equates on every occasion
‘cause balls must travel from the clubface path.
Arcs and angles, circles and circumferences,
Tempo and mass, accelerating club speed;
All lead to tangible consequences,
Upon all these facts Newton has agreed.”
“So … from the equation what do you take?”
“ Ah. You take every piece, one step at a time,
And you’re pleased to see what’s left in its wake,
Simplicity’s arrival is well timed;
‘cause it’s fewer tasks you’ll wish to pursue,
The better you get, the less that you do.”
Do You Know These 4?
Our rich language has a word for everything . . .
(Well nearly), and at times they overlap;
So let me here help by distinguishing
Four kindred concepts with this lyric map.
A simile is simple, like a pair,
Two items now linked with “like”, “as”, or “so”;
Their similarness you’re pushed to compare
As the likeness of painting to photo.
Metaphors are mined in a diff’rent vein,
They don’t pro-claim themselves with a clear cue word,
Yet they prospect amidst the same terrain,
Digging up connections that were interred.
Metaphor’s parallels are more complex
Than a simile’s triangulation,
At multiple points the former connects
While the latter’s a plane correlation.
Both of these literary devices
Encamp under one more general term –
They’re analogies – and like good spices
They add flavor, or gel the plot more firm.
The fourth kindred concept turns to fiction,
A secret agent veiling its meaning;
Disguise and insight often its diction,
Or by cloaked attacks, oh so demeaning.
Its characters must be figurative,
Alive in symbolic territory;
An author employs these operatives
To give punch and kick to allegory.
You now know in minutes, what I learned in months
By noting me say, two things at once.
Laws, some say, “are just made to be broken”;
And what does the universe say to this?
With law shown, but until now un-spoken;
Oh, how the true rules are easy to miss!
For onward our lives roll, knowing or not;
Attracting our futures with something so common;
Thus traveling all the way, who would have thought
That thought itself so out performs reason!
Radical notions grow common if true,
And truth never suffers from closer scrutiny.
Causal thought will vibrate ‘til it is due;
Thinking is just cause, so why mutiny?
Into diety’s heart your thoughts will go,
Onward and unstoppable, source does know.
Now life so simple . . . your mind it will blow!
Our 3rd Base Coach
My favourite part of baseball as a player was always base running. Let us, yes us, do some two-gether – while reading, while imagining.
You and I are the base runner; we’re on first base. We want to score, to go home. Our teammates have the same goal for us. Our family, fans and friends also want us to score, to get home. The batter actively acts on this mutual intention, (s)he hits the ball hard, over the infielder’s heads. We are off and running; we know where second base is so our eyes follow the ball, we want and need to know if the ball is bouncing. We, like the ball, are also moving towards the outfield. It is easy to watch; the action is in front of us. We see the ball heading towards the gap – no one will catch it – it bounces. Both outfielders are also on the run - towards the ball. Third base is now a given – we are heading there post haste. Full speed has arrived. Second base approaches; our vision must switch to it. We must touch second base without tripping on it or losing any velocity ... plus simultaneously orchestrate a 90 degree turn at full speed. With these tasks finished a decision looms; go for home or stop at 3rd?
One option would be to now look over our shoulder towards the outfielders and ball and reconnoitre their status. Two major problems with this option: it slows you down; seeing clearly and deciding at full speed, with third base approaching and with all of baseball’s variables is asking much too much of any runner. No baseball teams, at any level, use this option; there is a much better way.
Completely relieve the runner of any decision making: their back is to the outfielders - they are looking the wrong way; they are already fully engaged, bases to touch, 90 degree turns to make, speed to maintain. Enter the third base coach. (S)he is not at full speed, has no square white bags to trip over, level ground abounds. They will move very little – except for their arms. The third base coach knows where their runner is and is free to watch the pertinent fielder(s). They know the runner’s speed, the thrower’s arm, and the game situation. Example: with two out and the pitcher up next, (s)he will take maximum risk. The silent code is natural and intuitive; arms straight up, palms forward = stop, one rotating arm towards home = go home. No matter what the complexities of: runner, thrower(s), outs, score, inning, field conditions, next batter, pitcher quality, left/right batter/pitcher combo; the third base coach delivers a binary answer - stop or go. No one can visually block this vital, binary communication; no fielder(s), nor umpire, nor other runners. The opinions, partisanship, nor vocal volume of the majority (the fans) will affect the message. Urgency can be conveyed by the rotational speed and enthusiasm of the arm swing, or the urgency and location of a necessary slide into third. This solution is far superior to looking over your shoulder while running. Everyone does it. There is no debate. Never, never is the third base coach not there; is missing; un-utilized.
Our feelings work exactly the same way; they are our third base coach. Our lives are in motion; intent, preferences, goals, and thoughts have gotten the ball bouncing and us on the run. Situations can be complicated; but our feelings are not. We feel either good or bad. Yes, there are now many nuanced names for feeling good or bad; and we could use all these clever words to analyse our feelings. But let’s not. Let’s feel our feelings. This returns us to the binary nature of feeling good or bad. Feeling is our emotional third base coach saying either: all is well, keep thinking those thoughts, your actions match you goals, the target is ahead, keep moving; or, feeling bad is a stop. Settle down. Better feeling thoughts and actions are needed to reach home.
What a teammate! Our back is covered ... but only if heeded.