Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Great Life: The Wisdom of Tony Gwynn

Baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn

We typically don’t think of baseball players as sources of life changing wisdom. But, since I love baseball as much as I do, and since I watch it every chance I get, I was bound to get a life changing piece of wisdom from it.
Some time during the 2004 or 2005 season, I was watching a Yankees’ game and Tony Gwynn was commentating it for ESPN. Yankees’ third baseman, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez was up to bat. Doing his part to add “color commentary” to the game,  Tony Gwynn said, “Alex Rodriguez is a great hitter. What makes a great hitter different from a good hitter is how quickly they can pull themselves out of a hitting slump. Great hitters will work on their hitting mechanics and figure out what is wrong quicker than a good hitter. Everyone is going to go into a hitting slump, but you don’t notice it as much with great hitters as you to with other hitters. So a great hitter will hit for a much higher average than a good hitter.” (I liberally paraphrased since all I have is from my memory!)
Tony Gwynn
Tony Gwynn would know what made a great hitter. Out of the 17,289 players (as of 09.04.10 (, Tony Gwynn was eighteenth all time with base hits. In fact, in 2007, Anthony Keith Gwynn, aka Tony Gwynn, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Because of his hitting, Tony Gwynn had the seventh highest voting total. He was 13 votes shy of a unanimous vote in in his first year of eligibility . Tony Gwynn knows what makes a great hitter.
The Wisdom
What made Tony Gwynn’s color commentary so profound was how I could apply it to my life. There are days when I don’t feel great, days when my confidence is low, or I had an unexpected and unpleasant happening. Applying the theory of Tony Gwynn, the difference between a great life and a good life is how quickly I can pull myself out of a slump. He said slumps happen to everyone. That would include you and me. Its the amount of time a person spends in it that makes the difference between a good life and a great life. A great life is all in our own hands.

Each day I try to find the win in every situation. How do you pull yourself out of a slump? Do you feel as if you're living the "great life"?

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Find Me

Find Me was written around 2000 and was orinignally published in the SouthEastern College, Lakeland FL, 2001 Oracle. It was a cool spring day when I read Waiting by the Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s and was inspired.

My love will come
will fling open her arms and fold me in them,
will understand my fears, observe my changes.
In from the pouring dark, from the pitch night
without stopping to bang the taxi door
she’ll run upstairs through the decaying porch
burning with love and love’s happiness,
she’ll run dripping upstairs, she won’t knock,
will take my head in her hands,
and when she drops her overcoat on a chair,
it will slide to the floor in a blue heap.

Though the form is nothing alike, I used it as a start. As Find Me started to take on its own rhythms, I let it go on its own. One thing that sticks out to me about Find Me in comparison to Waiting is that Waiting is about a lover that has come to see the writer, but Find Me is the writer, which is me, wanting a lover to come to him.

Find Me

Find me.
And when you find me,
Walk up to me.
As you walk up to me trying not to skip,
Talk to me.
And in the midst of the catching up,
Lean in towards me.
As I feel your breath against my face,
Let me inhale you.
When this mornings shampoo fills my soul,
Whisper to me.
Please start to whisper and then pause,
Giggle and blink.
After the giggle and prolonged blink,
Gather yourself just a little.
And when you have gathered yourself just a tad,
Look up at me and tell me you love me-

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Purpose in Life (Part 2)

As I said last week, my purpose in life is to be the most loving person I can be, first to God and then to others. Today, I want to look at how this purpose happened.

It started in 1996 while I was still in my Christian Fundamentalist stage and was overwhelmed with what I needed to think was right and wrong. In the movement I was in, it was already decided what the Bible meant, and so it was my job to get acquainted with it and to get others to see it that way too.

But in the June of1996, I read the Bible versus in the book of Matthew and would forever shape the course of my life. (Matthew is one of the four books in the Christian Bible that talks about Jesus’ life and work.) Here is Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT):

36 "Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?"
  37 Jesus replied, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'*38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'*40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

 Upon reading it, I was moved by how “the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” I figured if I could be the most loving person I could be, first to God and then to others, I would act according to the Christian scriptures instead of having to figure out every detail of what was right and what was wrong.

Another major shift in finding this purpose happened in early spring of 1999. I don’t really know why, but I picked up a Louis Fischer’s biography on Gandhi (Gandhi, His Life and Message for the World); a book I read with no abandon. From there, I picked up The Autobiography of Martin Luther King.  The last book I read in this spree was Jim Bakker’s book, I Was Wrong. It was the book by Jim Bakker, a Fundamentalist TV evangelist in the 1980’s that showed me and what I was becoming in juxtaposition to the lives of people like Gandhi and King. It was then that I started to push into what I believe and what I believe love is.

Most of the foundational concepts I have of love where birthed out of these experiences. I realized love was a daily experiment. I realized love is not a definition, but a direction like east and west. You and I can never reach a destination where we can truly say we are now in “east” or now in “west.” But we can head in the direction of love (as with east/west) and always be on our way. And because of the immensity of love, we will always be at love's beginnings.

In time I found out that in the world of Christian Fundamentalism, love is just a concept in the greater judgement of a legal framework of right and wrong or an emotional release. But, those views of love are part of who I am and a large part of the framework of what and who I’ve become.

What kind of frame work of love do you have? Is there any big moments in your life where you committed to love?

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Purpose in Life (Part 1)

(Amma, the hugging saint)

Have you ever wondered about your life purpose? I have. I wonder about it more when the conversation about purpose leaks out of the self help community. Like last spring, I was listening to the New Man Podcast, and some guy, I don’t remember who anymore, was talking about why it’s important to find your life’s purpose. At the time, I was struck hard by it and I took some time to this about this.

It can be difficult trying to figure this out. I’ve heard it could be what I'm talented in. It could be an area of skill? I’ve also heard it could be what makes me happy. After pondering these avenues, I still didn't know. Have you figured your purpose out yet with these clues?

After some reflection, I realized I’ve known my purpose for years. I just didn't know it yet. Finally it dawned on me my purpose in life is to be the most loving person I can be, first to God and than to others. Its who I am, or at least who I’m working to be. I made that decision in 1996 and I’ve dedicated myself to it ever since.

Yet to make it happen, I’ve continued to struggle with this one question: What is love and how can I know it? When I talk of love, I don’t mean romantic love or falling in love with someone. Instead I'm getting after the compassion at the heart of sustainable human interaction. That’s were my definition stops because I’m not sure if we can define love. Eastern philosopher and mystic, Alan Watts, once wrote in his book, Tao: The Watercouse Way,  the problem of trying to explain the Tao. Since it’s alive, explaining it is like trying to swallow the whole ocean into your mouth and recreate it by pushing it back through a straw. It cannot be done. Yet when we try to explain something like the Tao using our words that run left to right in one direction, we are doing the same thing. (I paraphrased, of course.) 

So it is with love. Words fail love since love is alive with movement and will and words are dead and after the fact. Therefore with words we can only hint at what love was. Love happens in the moment. And when love is truly happening,  the other person is the only thing that matters: the joy of serving another person envelopes the moment. All else is of no consequence.

The other part of the problem in figuring out love is what happens to us with love. All of us may be avoiding an honest discussion on love because we and everything and everyone around us is exposed in love's presence. Love hides nothing. Shame and ambitions melt like ice. We then must do the hard work of figuring out how to view ourselves since we've only known who we are through insecurities. The question becomes, who’s right, me or love? I still struggle with my identity in the shadows of love. My self-narrative is in constant rewrite.

Next week I will go into how this journey came about, how this purpose came into being. But until then, I would like to hear from you. Can you define love? Is it something you intentionally do? Or does it just happen? And does love have a chance of redefining you?

(For further reading on love in action: Jean Vanier's Book Becoming Human. It's helped me cultivate an outlook of compassion.)

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Imagine Justice

Just imagine if you will, what could be produced when a person harmonizes their creativity with love. Imagine what could be produced. Imagine the justice that would be synthesized. It may not end up popular, but it could be powerful in so many ways. Imagine if book of Amos was known like HBO. Imagine if justice did flow like water, were oppression dried up because the oppressed found "that freedom within."
 ...where greatness was measured in giving instead of accumulations?
 ...where insecurity was not so dominating and we learned ways to stay ahead of it?
 ...(where I learned to stay ahead of the insecurities my own life.)

Just imagine.

Imagine if the day of Yahweh, talked about by Isaiah, could be initiated by human hand and the hills and mountains and valleys were made flat and all could come to that source of Love.
  ...and any disability or infirmity that we ignore a person for would be learned from.
  ...and where the poor are no longer poor in the way that gives food, drink, and health to those that have and social entitlements those that aspire to have.
  ...and the weak are teaching the strong with the wisdom that comes from pushing through despite the greatest weaknesses.
  ...and where the sick are cared for and given space to be heard and to rest.
  ...and where people have a conscience choice if they want to be a victim or a forgiver.
  ...and where the words of Christ are viewed with the prophetic backdrop they were spoken on instead of the pile of shit they are now marketed as.
 Just imagine if Dr King and Gandhi were paupers in a world where justice was wealth?

Serously, just imagine because a day of internal justice that transforms the world is awaiting. It all depends on our ability to forgive and to continue to forgive. With forgiveness, life is brought to where death was. And through forgiveness, and only forgiveness, can we find this new world of deep and total justice.

What's forgiveness look like to you? 

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