Friday, August 20, 2021

The Glory of Difficulty

I’m on a mission to introduce my grandkids to classic movies, from the 30’s up to today. Zadie and I have watched three great cross-dressing films—Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, then went on to women empowerment films—9 to 5, Big Business  and last night, A League of Their Own. They’ve all held up well and I was particularly struck by a moment in last night’s film when Geena Davis, a player on the all-women baseball team, tells manager Tom Hanks why she’s leaving the team:  “It’s hard.” And he replies: 


“It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” 


That’s a poster-worthy quote and in fact, Google reveals many such posters. But even though it can sound like cliché, it is as true as true can be. True of jazz piano, true of Orff Schulwerk, true of writing a book, true of Zen practice. All of which I keep working at and daily getting my butt kicked. It’s a simpler way of saying what the poet Rilke said many, many years earlier (excerpted from his poem The Man Watching):


When we win it’s with small things,

And the triumph itself makes us small. 

What is extraordinary and eternal

Does not want  to be bent by us…


…This is how we grow: by being defeated, decisively,

by constantly greater beings.


There can be a bit of the extraordinary and eternal in any craft, be it baseball, cooking, child-raising or chess. Choose your opponent and jump into the ring, ready to be pummeled and kneaded into your true shape.


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