Play The Ball Where The Monkey Drops It

I’m reblogging a sermon… not because I joined a church this past Sunday and paid extra special attention… not because the title is so damn intriguing… but because the reverend was able to whip up a Forrest Gump-ism from a dare.

As an exercise to ministers-in-training, our reverend challenged her class to come up with a sermon out of a random word. To prove it could be done, she partook, and had ‘golf’ as her word. After googling ‘golf’ for some material, she proceded to share one of the best sermons ever, to which I won’t come close to giving justice.

Once upon a time, the English Empire annexed India. Not one to arrive at a colonialization party empty-handed, the English brought golf. The Indians brought lush jungle. Lush Indian jungles brought monkeys. Lush Indian jungle monkeys brought a curiosity for round white objects that flew through the dense jungle air. Lush Indian jungle monkey curiosity brought frequent relocations to freshly fired golf shots. Sometimes the ball would land in the rough, and the monkeys would pick it up and drop it on the green. Sometimes it would land on the green, and the monkeys would pick it up and drop it in the rough. They tried to control the monkeys, but to no avail, so the English & Indians wrote them monkeys and their monkey-ball behaviour into the Book Of Life Golf: Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

I couldn’t make this up.

I mean, I COULD… but my flavour would fold in a vast right-swing conspiracy and a tasteless bastardization of a Gandhi quote, which would go:

First, you they are annoyed by how you bugger up their sporting events. Then, they ignore you. Then, they laugh at you. Then, they fight you. Then, you win.

And isn’t this life? Sometimes, you do all the right things (great shot!), and walk away with nothing to show for it (damn monkey!). Sometimes, you make a right mess of it (hooked it!), and somehow it turns out better than expected (good monkey!). Reality becomes the resultant vector of both what you can and can’t control, and all you can do, is, say it with me: Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

It’s a pretty Buddhist idea.

It’s also a pretty successful Disney song.

Days Of Future Presents

There is a movie out now called X-Men: Days of Future Past. No, I haven’t seen it, so I don’t get if there’s something to the title beyond a convoluted curiosity, but that won’t stop me from bastardizing it to paraphrase this one quote by Alan Watts from a lecture of his that somebody entitled Life Is A Musical Play.

If you cannot live in the present, then you cannot enjoy the future for which you have planned.

This was said in the context of discussing how planning isn’t useless, but it is useless if you can’t enjoy the present moment. If you can’t enjoy the Day of Present Present, how can you enjoy the Days of Future Presents?

It’s an interesting consequence of what it means to “live in the now”.

There Are No Rules

I was chatting with an artist buddy yesterday about his craft. After making and selling for a few years, he took a class where the biggest thing he took out of it came from a discussion on technique.

He was stepping through how to set up to do this one thing, and his teacher asked why, and he said he had always done it that way. She asked again, “Why?” He stammered and repeated that he had always done it that way. That’s when she said there are no rules – do it differently, who cares, you’re still making art.

I’m still sitting with that, digesting it.

What Are Days?

You ever notice that sudden plans are usually fun? For me, sure, what’s cool is the thing that is planned, but it’s equally neat how, like, 2 hours ago, this idea of a plan wasn’t out there, and then, all of the sudden, somebody came up with it and then it was acted upon.

Wham – you blink.

Bam – you enjoy.

If I could only remember that the days were not bricks to be laid row on row, to be build into a solid house, where one might dwell in safety and peace, but only food for the fires of the heart.
– Edmund Wilson, Critic and Writer (1895-1972)

This is my way of saying that this last Sprint, I’ve had an extraordinarily large number of emergent stories, and I’ve gone along with them. Dinner here. Movie there. Oscar-watching party somewhere around the corner. Sprint Goal nowhere close to being accomplished.

Yet – and I think that as you get older you become more OK with things like this – I’m more OK with things like this. I’m trying to remember that our days are indeed meant to be gut-level exciting.

You’re Allowed

Bill Watterson is the guy who did those Calvin and Hobbes comics. He gave a commencement speech to Kenyon College in 1990. From it is an excerpt that made it onto some webpage that then landed in my Facebook feed. I can’t find that page, but I think I found the excerpt:

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

I especially like that last bit – establishing your own life’s path starts with giving yourself permission, sometimes permission to not climb the success ladder that’s such a sacred structure of our environment.

That awesome life you want starts with realizing… you’re allowed to live it.