Friday, March 28, 2008

The Worm

My wonderful son competed today in the Pan Ams -- or as the teeshirt says, the Pan. He batted 500, which as everyone knows is unheard of in its spectacular greatness. He's fine with the experience. I just talked with him and reminded him of what he already knew -- if he'd have won more, it would have been a disaster for his jiu jitsu. As little as he's been able to train, even given as well as he does, more victories would not have been honorable. Not dishonorable, just not really earned. He'd be getting by on brains and the strength that he's worked for, but the game isn't about strength -- that's not the skill.

It's late now, although nothing like as late as I usually am, and I have to get driving for my own competition in not too many hours. I hardly ate today, which wasn't smart, since I'm at the low end of my weight class, something called middle heavy weight. But I wasn't hungry. Yes, nerves. I don't like being away from home. Don't like pressure. I've had enough pressure to last me the rest of my life. I don't like not knowing when I'm going to compete, or against whom. I don't like the milieu. I can take twenty minutes or so of watching people compete, then it's too much. I was there today for six hours. My point eludes me. It must somehow be about what a phenomenon I am, since that's what everything I write is about. Could I be trying to say I'm so brave for doing what I don't like to do? Yes, that must be it. Hardly anyone does what they don't want to do. I'm practically unique in this regard.

As I've said, I'm fighting up to 19 years younger than me. It was the 20s, today, and I looked at these guys and supposed I could do alright against them. But it's always about skill, and I only seem good, because I'm long and strong and a little scary looking. I'm pleased that the age thing doesn't seem like such a big deal. If I get my butt handed to me tomorrow, it will be because I come up against someone who can neutralize my body type. I'm fine with that. Next year I'll be good. Maybe I'll fight the 20s. But maybe I should see how I do with the early 30s -- does that seem reasonable?

I do have that dull ache of nerves in the back of my mind. Almost dread. About something that doesn't matter and about which I hardly care. There must be a profound secret to happiness buried in that assessment. But the secret about secrets of happiness is that there are no secrets. Everybody knows what to do. They know not to care about foolish things. What makes the difference? Again, a secret: there is no wisdom without grace.

How many prayers have ever made a difference? Only one instantly comes to mind -- when a certain Hebrew king prayed that his life be spared. It was, and a son was born. That son was the worst of the kings of Israel. Yes, I can think of other prayers, that brought about such heroic phenomena as the sun stopping and the heavens bleeding fire. I suppose lots of prayers are answered, and dramatically. In the Bible, I mean, when we're told all about the cause and effect. In our own lives, though? We pray only because we have faith, or the promise of faith. If good things happen afterwards, no experimental data exist to confirm our hypothesis.

We need not be bothered by this intellectual inconvenience. Everything is founded on faith, starting with perceptions and ending with the meaning of words. The Buddhists are right in almost all their precepts. It's just that beyond the illusion is not the nothingness. Beyond the illusion is reality. It always, with me, comes back to love. There is no reason for it. It's just necessary. It's in us, or not, the way faith is, and the way grace is, and the way hope is.

How my heart weeps for those who have no hope. My heart weeps for them now. I think of those who are, say, locked in their church, set on fire by those who do such things -- at this very hour, no doubt, in some African province. They pray for rescue, and they die praying, in the flames and in physical torment. Were they rescued? My faith says yes. Life is not just flames, but it is flames often. The unsatisfying doctrine that we must accept is that the flames are an illusion.

I have achieved my purpose. I am, for the moment, at peace. I will go read now, into the small hours, and sleep for a time, and rise with the sun that I may drive to the sea and fight one or more strangers. When you read this, your prayers, if any, will be too late. Pray for something that matters.


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