Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brilliance Disguised

First things....well, you know how and where first things are handled by now do you not? Happy Birthday to my big sister (speaking to familial chronology and not familial verticality) Evan who I hope enjoys her day very much. I would sing her, "Happy Birthday" but I fear that unless someone remembered to buy her a finely sharpened, pointed stick she will be without the implement necessary to eradicate that awful noise from her mind's ear. Other than as the lead into, "that is finally over" no one has ever associated the word "Happy" with what I generously refer to as my singing. It seems less than likely that today will be the day that changes.

The late, great John Wooden's name has been in the news a bit more than usual lately courtesy of the Lady Huskies of Connecticut and their pursuit of the record that one of Wooden's UCLA Bruins teams set for consecutive wins. Wooden's Bruins won 88 in a row. The UCONN women are rapidly approaching that mark. I would be less than forthright if I did not admit that I am rooting against them breaking the record. I do not think of it as rooting against Connecticut as much as I am rooting for Wooden although I suppose if Coach Wooden was here he would be rooting hard for the Lady Huskies - and probably conjuring up a folksy maxim exposing the short-sighted nature of my position.

He left behind not simply a legacy of coaching but more substantively a legacy of teaching. It is a gift far greater than X's and O's to be able to distill simple, meaningful and worthwhile life lessons to both those who know you and those who you shall never meet. Coach Wooden had that gift. Among the maxims he lived his life by and imparted to his players - and one that I try to adhere to in my own day-to-day - was, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." In our house, I imparted that lesson to my two kids in a slightly different form, exhorting them to live life by the 5Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance - a maxim first imparted to me by Frank "Hanklin" Gonzales. Hanklin and Coach Wooden are two men who likely never met. Yet they knew one another completely - cut as they were from the same cloth.

Listening to Margaret and Suzanne chat the other evening about some of the events that have popped up above the tree line in Suz's life, I could not help but think of another of Coach Wooden's maxims, "Be quick but don't hurry." I suppose reduced to its simplest form it is advice to act purposefully but not rashly - to move with deliberate pace and not at breakneck speed.

Too often in life we leap first and then look as if either the distance we are attempting to traverse or the surface on which we shall likely land are of no consequence whatsoever. Yet we know intuitively that in telling ourselves that we are merely lying to the person who needs our honest appraisal of our situation and of ourselves most of all and to whom we owe it most of all. The art of deliberative self-reflection is fast becoming a lost art. It has become more important to be first than to be right. When your local tabloid newspaper or television news program adopts that as its modus operandi and that offends your sensibilities you can buy a different paper or change the channel. When someone you care about - and perhaps might even love - does it, there is greater resonance.

Perhaps it is due to the dying art of deliberative self-reflection that too many of us too often are prone to paralyzing bouts of self-doubt. Sometimes in spite of ourselves, we manage to stick the landing anyway. No harm, no foul. Other times? Other times we discover that we are far less fortunate. The landing is botched. A real mess is made. And because life is an event that moves inexorably in one direction, and because that direction is forward there are no Mulligans to be granted. There are no "do overs" to be done.

God may indeed have mercy on the man who doubts what he is sure of.....because life itself may not in fact show any at all.


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