Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do You Live Today?

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
-       Alfred Lord Tennyson
o    In Memoriam:27, 1850

Life is scary.  Life is fragile. Life is precious. Life is dangerous.  But for all these statements, the overarching conclusion must be: Life is to be lived.  And to actively live life is to entertain risks.  We risk our hearts, our prestige, our stature, and our souls; and yet we are the beneficiaries of a constant reward system.  How is this true you may ask?

To take a stand whether as a bell weather or champion or as a meek member of the flock or rank and file our very existence is a stand for life.  When we actively live it we are actively risking some measure of understanding about who we see when we look in the mirror.  What we cannot see readily is that we do not exist in a zero sum game.  All wisdom emanates from experience, and the greatest growth usually occurs from those times we have risked and ‘lost’.  So if you are successful, you will benefit directly from the success but have not won everything because you cannot fathom the wisdom gained by the person who was not as successful.

Should we then aim to win at all costs just to be successful? Or aim for something different and search for the wisdom borne of failures?  My personal observation is to put forth one’s best effort in the pursuit of success.  There will be plenty of opportunities along the way to that goal for there to have been none too few failures to enhance the wisdom factor of any attempt at success.

And there in perhaps lies the generational gap of our times; the pursuit of happiness is a journey fraught with hazards.  Happiness or success is not guaranteed; what is guaranteed is that you will be a better person for having taken the walk rather than being Star Trek style to the finish line.  I come across this on a daily basis as I coach soccer.

Coaching any person whether in life or in a sport is about living the journey as the ongoing existence in one’s ‘happy place’ There are highs of winning games, successful interactions or scoring goals, but the happiest most successful place is that location where the player or student grasps that the success is a byproduct of embracing the methods of hard work, perseverance and insight.

Part of this philosophy is an understanding of learning that is espoused in the medical community when class room knowledge must be wedded to practical application.  Sometimes this wedding is a serene and quiet affair, sometimes with pomp and circumstance, but often times it is s rushed and ragged shotgun wedding of circumstance, need and not enough time.  It is at those times that the teaching method of: See it, Learn it, Do it then Teach it is at its most valued. 

How can we ever truly appreciate and fully grasp what we know and hold dear; until we have taught someone else what we know?

Sports can be seen as analogous to living life without the long term relational consequences.  If you get in a verbal altercation with an opponent, it is unlikely that it will lead to a divorce.  Or if you engage in a series of partnerships on the field of play, it is unlikely that this will lead to 2.5 kids and a house in the country with a white picket fence.  But moment to moment lapses of judgment or skill will result in setbacks, some larger than others.  Those setbacks can lead to losses felt by other members of your team, and the drive to give better effort so that you don’t let your teammates down is critical to a sense of self-worth.  

And while the loss of a game stings and feels like it will last a lifetime, short of being Bill Buckner, few people will remember an individual gaff beyond the game it occurred in.  The hope of all coaches at moments of loss is that the lesson from the experience sinks in.  That it might come from internal awareness is desired and most long lasting.  There is a scene in the movie Invictus about the post-apartheid South African Rugby Team where the captain of the Sprinboks played by Matt Damon hands out bad beer to his teammates after a disgraceful performance on the field.  He demands they all take a taste of the beer that they be reminded of what failure tastes like, and demands that they never taste it again.

But to have even stepped on the field of play, to have the courage to engage your fellow human beings in any activity is based upon two essential elements of life: courage and confidence.  Confidence without courage is like living life as a paper tiger; one stiff breeze from the wrong direction and you are blown away.  Courage without confidence leads to self-imposed solitude.  The missing ingredient to this recipe for moving forward is love; the act of selflessly giving by one person to another.  It can come from parent, coach, friend, sibling or lover; but it’s origin is always divine.  Love is an act of the will, the actions that embody doing for another without hope of self-serving benefit.

So now I paraphrase and mangle Lord Tennyson’s work some 160 years after the writing of his famous line:
I hold it true, whatever happens;
I feel it in my heart, when I sorrow most;
It is better to have lived, lost and been wiser for it
Than never to have lived at all.
So whether you Livestrong, or liveweak; don’t forget to live and do not fear losing as much as you should fear not loving the life you live.

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