Saturday, October 1, 2011

Half-times in your Life: Fear Fate or Fight Ferociously?

When I played football in high school, I never really told anybody but as the coach would have us gathered 'round way off of the field in the dark by a fence that we first peed upon before gathering near to hear the goods and the bads of the first half and the plans and corrections needed for the second half, I favored... watching the band.

They were awesome.  BOOM BOOM bom bom boom bom bom boom boom boom boom... the dancing, the energy of their performance... it fired me up, even as I struggled to see them from the steam usually rising off of our heads, making a virtual fog between those placed toward the rear (facing the band) and the band itself.  But the band performed with energy... such intense and pure energy.  The whistles of the drum majors and synced movements of the flag girls.  The fanatic beat of the drums and electric charge in the air that matched perfectly with the other instruments--this made me want to go out and destroy anybody in the wrong-colored uniform, and I usually did my fair share of it.

Injuries were throbbing by this time in the game--this half-time--as we chugged on our Gatorade and nodded at our coaches as they took turns in lecture.  The muscles in our legs were begging for relief, but something coming from a greater place than just brain-chemical magickery seemed to rise up inside most of us as we went out for the second half.  This was, in essence, the "real game..." quarters three and four. This is where you can lose all greatness you had in the first half, where you can recover from any shame you had... this is where the men really were separated from the boys because endurance was not always athletic in nature--it was of the mind, heart, and will.

Today, I got to thinking about what half-time really meant for a lot of people in different circumstances.  My nature told me to believe that half-time in life (in this case, believing that I'm about halfway through or maybe even more at the age of 39) meant a few things.  First, you better be well on your way toward fulfilling your dreams, because the "real" clock starts ticking now.  Secondly, you have no more time to procrastinate or squander even if you don't feel any needs or goals tugging at you to come toward them unless you are perfectly content to just exist (some people are, and they are ones I envy).  Finally, you are now beginning to succumb to the insurmountable forces of nature working to take you back down into the Earth.  The aches become pains, the pains become severe pains; bone is lost, muscle atrophies, testosterone levels drop, menopause, sexual desires and abilities begin to fade, weight control becomes all but impossible... oh yeah, Mother Nature is a bitch and she won't be making any apologies for it.  She's got to keep shit moving.  And she will.

I'll confess that I'm getting a bit... realist/pessimist in my thinking.  Not in all areas... just that life is painful more than pleasurable, no matter how "good" it feels to be alive as compared to ("what?").

But instead of accepting that rather bleak view I offered of what life could and possibly should be seen as as you pass through your half-time lectures, what if you chose a different view?

What did Secretariat do in the first half of his races?  Hung around in the back.  It was the second half that was his turn to whoop ass... to dig into the track with hooves of fire, not to just pass everybody... that wasn't enough... but to blaze past them like they were standing still.

What did Muhammed Ali do in Rumble in the Jungle with a younger, stronger George Foreman during the first half of their fight?  It was in that fight that he proved in many ways, not just a few, that brains beats brawn.  Not only was he throwing right leads (a punch that has to travel further to get to an opponent, meant to embarrass that opponent if he can't stop or duck it with the extra preparation time).  He hadn't thrown right leads in the films Foreman's camp studied.  He introduced a brand new strategy to the boxing world, the "Rope-a-Dope," in which a boxer absorbs the best shots from his opponent to tire him out by simply relaxing against the ropes instead of doing the traditional "stick and move."  That, also, was not in the films the Foreman Camp studied.  In fact, Foreman had been training in the ring by focusing, more than anything, on cutting the ring off--that is to say making it harder for a dancer like Ali to get away from him.

But all that training was for naught.  Because Ali stopped moving and lay stationary in the ropes.  George swung.  And swung.  And swung and swung again with loud thuds, being teased with the occasional left jab as he drew back.  People believed Ali was hurt and used up. 

As half-time came and went (the middle of the 8th round) and the 2nd half began, that's when Ali began.  Stiff jabs.  Hard counter rights.  He saw that Foreman was absolute Jello, and finally just turned on the Secretariat storm of not just competing, not just winning, but winning hard.  He knocked Foreman out before the end of the round.

I'm sure you can think of 10,000 other examples of how half-times in people's lives have not meant half-over.  They say life begins at 40.  There seems to be something to that, doesn't there?  Are the half-times in your life as well as all of those half-time moments within your life a call to accept that the first half has decided the second half, or are they, really, whatever you decide to make them be?

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