Friday, January 13, 2006

Fishing and Wrestling, the Hidden Link

Head over to thoughtstreaming. That's an order.

Dear Troutsky,

My cousin is an avid fisherman, and he gets a bit angry when I make fun of the "sport". In truth, I have nothing against it except that I find it uninteresting. I much prefer grabbing a good book and laying in a hamock near the shore. I'd much rather catch a good idea than an infernal scale-covered creature.

Anyway, your point--which you almost made--was a good one. Let me see if I can explain what I think you were trying to get at.

I come from a family of wrestlers. My youngest brother just started his career; he is in pre-kindergarten. We start them young. My brother finished his second varsity collegiate match yesterdaty. Thus far I'm the only one who has "retired" before college.

One of my favorite wrestling shirts said: "You are made better, not by winning easy battles, but by competing in hard fought ones." Living in a capitalist society, winning is the ultimate goal of everything we do. Competition is a good thing, but the shame isn't in losing but in not trying to your fullest. As Ghandi put it, "Full effort is full victory."

My fondest memories of the sport were not the easy matches in which I pinned "fishes"--the sport's term for weak opponents--but the hard battles I triumphed in at the end after a large struggle. Yet the lasting lessons had little to do with how many times I won or lost. In the end, my record was trivial and has not stayed with me, but the years have left their mark. One of my coaches used to tell us that we worked harder than anyone in the high school. He was right. Boy, did we work hard. I know now that the human body can go a lot further than I would have guessed. Self-discipline can take a man a far way.

The point is that through tension we grow. This is most obviously understood in the physical realm: lifting weights makes for stronger muscles; cross-training puts one in better shape. This applies not only to the human body, but the human spirit, mind and soul as well.

Sun Tzu famously intoned that we ought to "know thy enemy." This applies to the intellectual realm. Rush's listeners are often called "ditto-heads". They listen to Rush and assume that because he says something, it must be true, and often do not engage with members of the left. There are exceptions of course, but "How many Rush listeners does it take to read a Chomsky?" might be a fair question to ask. The same applies to liberals as well. Head on over to The Huffington Post for what could be termed the other "ditto-heads".

Another good example of those who avoid tension intellectually would be most Christians. Francis of Assisi noted that we are to "Preach the gospel. Use words if neccesary." and there are many who would be best off winning converts that way. But Christendom would be worse off if it never produced another Chesterton who spent his time actively engaging all the moderns of his day. St. Augustine was called the baptizer of Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas the baptizer of Aristotle. If one is going to engage non-believers in the attempt to convert them, one is going to need to do more than quote the Gospel.

The point of tension being necessary for growth applies emotionally as well. Longtime bachelors who refuse to date because there are no good women are often hiding rather than giving themselves a chance to grow. The same can be said for those who are never without a significant other, rebounding ad infinitum rather than being left alone. It behooves one to be uncomfortable once in awhile, or as Chesterton put it, "I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."

This is the part where I leave the computer and go out and socialize in order to experience some tension. Perhaps I could even turn off my music, which I am quite comfortable with and tune the radio to the teeny-bopper station.

No thanks. Remember, there is such a thing as taking this too far.

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