Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the wonders of middle

Basketball / n: a game played between two teams of five players each, the object being to throw a ball through an elevated basket on the opponent's side of a rectangular court. Players may move the ball by dribbling or passing with the hands.

In my last post I spoke a lot about beginnings and endings. Since writing that post I have started to believe that it might be a human fallacy to believe we are forever in the midst of them. Life is really about middle. Sometimes we are nothing but middle for years.

David Whyte, the poet, wrote, “real beginnings and real departures seem a distant memory, and after a long time without the rawness of those firsthand experiences, they become something we are not sure we want anymore, something we want to hold at bay.”

While I would agree that it is true that for some people beginnings and endings feel like a state of fragile aloneness, I think that some people feel so acclimated to the experience of walking through new doors, that they experience chronic change as a new baseline level of existence. This baseline leads to a nagging feeling that demands chronic beginnings and endings; middle, to them, is milquetoast. Although by now I’m sure it is evidently clear that I am one of those primates that can appreciate beginnings and endings for what they are and may even have a tendency of chasing them, I too like middles and am trying to find more of them.

On of my middles is basketball. I have been playing it for as long as I can remember and although in the beginning it was somewhat of a competitive experience (with others as well as myself), in recent years I found myself playing simply because it felt like freedom compared to all my other responsibilities and worries. Putting all my injuries and stitches aside, it is ultimately a soothing experience for me. I don’t play for an escape. I play because it feels like a comfortable wonderful insulation from work and aloneness, especially when I am an outsider living in an insider world. So like I said, basketball is one of my middles – until it comes to an end of course, which in my recent experience came sooner than I would have liked.

With the tragic ending of my middle in mind, I want to take a moment to give a yell out to all my Liberian ballers. First there is my partner and well respected coach of a group of young ballers in Voinjama - Mohammed Kromah. Mohammed stands out as extraordinary in every imaginable way. He is a great player, an inspirational coach, a fabulous dad and a good human being. Then there is the young group of players: Massaley, Valley, Dexter, Michael, American, Charlie, Fakuma, Zor Zor, Anthony, Musu, small Valley & his big brother; the list could go on. Each and every one of them knowledable beyond their years: each and every one of them there for me when I lost my mother. I will always remember them for that.

Next there is a group of much more advanced ballers. They are all from Monrovia. These guys are serious and rightfully so, they are extraordinary athletes. They basically let me play with them simply because they were nice guys and could tell I liked the game. I could barely keep up and was rarely any help, but they always let me have my middle and I will always cherish them for that. These guys include the one and only Jolomi, Carl, Jo, Magic, Tristan; once again the list could go on…..I thank them all from the bottom of my heart, for letting me play, for letting me in.

Now basketball doesn’t have to be everybody’s middle. Anything that allows someone to preserve a sense of freedom in the midst of rules and regulations and is identity preserving without being exceptionally defining is a middle. Basketball is not a middle for Kobe, it is a beginning, middle and end.

Basically what I’m saying is that we must all have a place we can chronically go to in this big bad beautiful world that neutralizes everything else in life. It can’t be something big, because then it’s not a middle. It’s got to be something unremarkable yet remarkable in its own right. Once you have a middle you know it. If you are getting paid for it or searching for it you might be in trouble. A middle is in fact milquetoast, but it is such a milky toast, it’s fabulous.

Thanks fellas for letting me have my middle in such a way that it allowed me to get away from and yet connect to two very important things in a world where everything is actually simultaneously living and dying, beginning and dying….

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