Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The politics of action

A book I read so long ago told me that one can pursue the path of knowledge or the path of life...but that the two seldom cross. As I've meandered along the dusty 4-lane of my own, I've noticed that there are those who seem to overthink and underthink...the overthinkers are slow to act (even when it may seem to be in their interest to do something quickly). The underthinkers, with little reflection, seem quick to do something...anything...even when it may seem to be in their interests to do nothing. The thinkers, nourishing themselves from the tree of knowledge, the underthinkers choosing the action of life. And so from these broad-based, bifurcated, media-friendly stereotypes, I set the context for something very individual and personal...6th-grade girls basketball.

You see, my own 6th grade daughter plays on a travelling basketball team. When we signed up for the team, we thought it would be a good way for her to develop some of her physical abilities around another sport. She'd get to do it with a slightly different mix of acquaintances and friends than her soccer team...and she'd be part of a program that emphasized competitiveness a tad more than the recreational league our park district runs. Oh how naive we were...the competition on the court it seems, is nothing like the competition in the stands.

I'm sure it occurs to every middle age person to question whether their life is exactly how they envisioned it would be when they were younger. Some people respond with a 'What me worry?' attitude that probably contributed to where they, in fact, find themselves at this moment. Others, perhaps, decide to do work harder, to be more assert control over their world in ways that probably contributed to where they, in fact, find themselves. And when this question gets answered by thinking or doing something through your offspring, well, that's like lighting a match in an oxygen tent.

Some of the team parents can be vicious...spending their time at the games--and after--talking to the other parents about the little the coach knows, how ineffective he runs the team, that type of thing.

So as the season enters its last 6 weeks, some parents continue to whisper among themselves with smug superiority at how much better things would be if someone else were coaching these 11 and 12-year olds. Meanwhile, the girls continue to play basketball and improve. The coach continues to coach to the best of his ability...and the whisperers keep wishing that what they think ought to be will somehow come true if only someone...anyone...would step up and take action...

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