Football and basketball and sports in general baffle me. They are frequently boring with breaks lasting longer than the action, more often inaction, between the teams. Rules have changed what were interesting games beyond recognition. The only mass media sport which continues to engage my interest is European football. I love speed and motion and action and decision over fat, lumbering, grunting pigs in helmets and cleats in no way resembling the Green Bay Packer I saw or was introduced to as a boy. By that time my interest had pretty well waned as it was clear from an early age that I have a skeleton which makes movement optional.
Only when I made the decision that days of pain and sleepless nights were worthwhile in high school did I get the adrenaline rush of European football. Who cared that it hurt? Who cared that I knew the game better and moved better than the football and basketball heroes a foot taller than me? True, kicking their shins when they got between me and the ball could have caused me grave physical damage, but I was darned lucky. The golden boys left me alone. They figured I was not worth the effort. I was a new kid in town, small and gangly and unpopular. I was no threat where it really mattered. In a jersey shirt or dating the most popular girls.
That was my high school No. More correctly, it was one of the ways in which I said No. No to conforming. No to the wealthy town where I lived. No to the doctors-lawyers-Indian chiefs-trust-funders in town and in class. Some of those No’s never changed, some did.
Years ago I ran into one of the high school jocks on a visit to town. He was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He went from varsity football and basketball to becoming a mailman. Whatever I thought he was like in high school, as an adult he was a stunning display of gentlemanly manners. I have run into other guys I’d gone to school with in the years before and after. They are not at all like they were when we were young. That gives me hope.
Maybe I have returned to Yes like them. It’s the first thing we know. We burst out into this world in a divine scream of Yes. We are willing to be born. We are willing to live. Give us a few months of milk and sleep and we will start to pick ourselves up and move out into our worlds.
Parents are a cross between exasperation and amusement when they discuss how the first word that comes out of their child’s mouth is No. Imagine that! It is probably the first concept we are taught. No, do not put that in your mouth. Don’t do that. Don’t.
Later in life that is called mind control in authoritarian regimes. No, you may not think for yourself. No, you may not have the job you want and for which you have an aptitude. No, you may not marry whom you wish. No, you may not live in the city or country where you wish to live.
We have the ability to live No. We can also live the Counter No, we can live Yes.
It’s dangerous to be a mystic who lives Yes. Ask one.
At a dinner party recently the group of people I was sitting with asked me about myself. Some of them I’d known a few years, some a few months. For almost a decade now I have been saying Yes to myself. I have been living my life more publicly; doing the work I am asked. It is still weird to hear my own voice say, Yes, I see angels. Yes, I see God. Yes, I see demons. Yes, we converse. Yes, I send the souls of the dead to the Tunnel of Light to be helped Home by angels. Yes, as needed, I perform exorcisms.
My question to the people I speak with is always the same: Why don’t you say Yes? Hold on tightly to your belief in yourself. Believe in your inner god. Maybe I have never been able to run a touchdown. Maybe my shoulders are too tight to get a golf club all the way back to tee off. Maybe I had to just plain sit down and give myself a good talking to.
I gave myself many good talks. Gosh, I’d love to smack a little white ball down a fairway or dunk a basketball or run it thirty yards to the goal posts. But maybe that is not why I am alive and maybe that is better.
You see, learning to say Yes means learning to say that what I have, who I honestly am, is better than pretending to be other.
It is just fine to give up interest in football for Aida and Carmen. I did it decades ago. There was just something about the women that was far more interesting than being stuck on a No that could never be. I admire the people who love both football and opera. My reality is that I am the opera guy.
Learning to say Yes is frightening. Think I was going to say exhilarating or one of those other lovely adjectives? Well, that, too, but it is a challenge to be myself both in private and in public. It is, in fact, often exhausting to be in public. The older I get, the more it tires me to be in places where there are crowds. Better to be home or someplace very private.
Ten or twelve years ago someone taught me that it is good to be a private person. He is a tremendously shy man himself and terrifically decent. He taught me that being a private person and living a private life is saying Yes.