April 18, 2013

Brendan Liturgy Part III

I am no athlete. I mean, I can throw a baseball and not look like a princess doing it. I can make a 10 foot jump shot over 50% of the time and I think I can still jog a mile without stopping (much), but I am not a “jock”.

In High school, of course, engaging in athletics was as much a psycho-social endeavor as it was a physical one. And so I was motivated by untold numbers of Freudian, Jungian, Darwinian and Jerry-Lewisian impulses to try my hand at various sports.

Team sports just never worked. I’m TOO social for that. I was hyper-competitive: Winning meant my IDENTITY and so team-mates’ performance (or lack thereof) had undue influence on my world. I couldn’t stand losing, and winning was only a little better because, “…we COULD have done it so much better!”

So by the time I was an “upperclassmen” in high school, I had settled on track and field and specifically the Pole Vault. It was an individual event and there was literally NO ONE else in my small school who was pole vaulting. I had the sport all to myself.

I became a descent vaulter, earning a place in state wide competition my senior year, but I would never be great.

There were a handful of reasons for this including my body type (I was destined to be stockier and slower than competitive vaulters really need to be) but most importantly, I never learned to fully trust the pole.

In order to achieve maximum height in a vault, one must obtain as much horizontal momentum as possible, and then a key energy transfer must occur in order translate that horizontal momentum into vertical momentum. That key energy transfer is: bending the pole as much as possible, then holding onto that sucker as it straightens back out again, flinging you into the air.

…and I could never fully surrender to that damn pole! Watch this:


Do you see that “moment” in each of those vaults when the athlete is essentially hanging upside down, forward momentum has stopped, upward momentum has yet to begin and the pole is straining to it’s limit?

Yeah. That’s the tricky part.

The stretching. The discomfort. The anticipation. That moment when the pole will either break, slip form your hands, or launch you into flight. In order to ever become a good valuter, one must live that moment so often that it becomes monotonous. It has to be repeated to the point that it becomes ignorable. But then again, you can never take it for granted.

It must be routine in it’s terror.

“They sailed over the loud-voiced waves of the rough-crested sea and over billows of the greenish tide, and over the abyss of the wonderful, terrible relentless ocean…it is enough, o mighty sea that you should drown me…the blackness of the deep, it’s sickening currents that would threaten oft to drown them…”


“…We were alone on the wide watery waste- nought broke it’s bright monotony of blue…”

The monotony of terror. Mind blowing.

As I contemplate this whole reconciliation “thing” with Native people, I am reminded of that feeling, hanging upside down on the end of a 1-1/2″ diameter fiberglass pole, and I find that I don’t want to feel that sensation. I am confronted with the thought that if I am to journey, I must pursue the monotony of bending to the point of breaking.

I am a man of two minds. Monotony is almost as off-putting as terror. So to put them together is…well…it’s bad.

Example: I “stumbled” on a newspaper article announcing a lecture on early photographs taken on the Tulalip Reservation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It will be held at the tribe’s cultural center tonight. I was initially excited. It felt like one of those “prompts”. I could learn something, maybe meet people who could show me the next steps, or partner with me, or lead or follow, or whatever. And it turns out that I’m free of other duties tonight (which is rare for me on Thursdays) so it felt doubly like a Divine appointment…it felt like POTENTIAL…horizontal momentum.

Then, last night as I contemplated going, taking that next step, stretching, risking, getting a disapproving look from a tribal member when I broach the subject, finding out I’m a day late and dollar short…or WORSE finding out that I have YEARS of disapproving looks, annoyed responses and ignored e-mails ahead of me; I blanched.

Here’s the moment. Well here’s A moment: I could be tossed gracefully into the air, clear the bar and fall safely into the bags…or…

And the WORST of it is: there will have to be many more moments, and not just for this little reconciliation “thing”…but for any worthwhile endeavor that ends up causing me to trust in the moment of inertia…to trust.



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