Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Real Life Tao - The Unlearned

Trey Smith

When it came to sports (as with most everything else), I was a quirky kid! Like most of my male peers, I too dreamed of being a professional athlete, but not in the same way that they did.

In football, rather than dream of being the star quarterback, fleet-footed receiver or bruising runner, my fantasy was to be an All-Pro punter and kicker.

In basketball, though I was one of the tall kids, I dreamed of being a guard who hoisted up shots from the three point line.

In baseball, I wanted to be a sure-handed outfielder or a knuckleball pitcher. The knuckleball is a pitch thrown by only a few pitchers and several of these fellows were viewed as odd and/or colorful. Since I was an odd kid, I suppose it makes sense that I would gravitate towards a strange pitch!

One of the reasons that few pitchers utilize the pitch -- R.A. Dickey is the only current Major League knuckleball pitcher -- is its unpredictably. No one -- not the hitter, catcher, umpire OR pitcher -- has a good idea of where it will land. Since pitchers generally are lauded for their precision, it takes a special kind of individual to throw a knuckleball.

Dickey has said he has come to understand that he must "surrender to the pitch." But it goes much deeper than that.
It's not lost on Dickey that the knuckleball, in a way, is a metaphor for his life and worldview. To throw it, he had to relinquish control and give in to the laws of physics and the whims of the elements. He had to unlearn most of what he knew before. He had to have faith.
Without knowing it, Dickey has connected with Lao Tzu! In Verse 20 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu tells us to
Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.
In Verse 48, he suggests,
In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
And in Verse 64, he writes,
Therefore the sage seeks freedom from desire.
He does not collect precious things.
He learns not to hold on to ideas.
Too often, we place far too much emphasis in our lives on trying to control that which we cannot control. We become so enamored with our abilities and skills that we allow our expectations for success to cloud our vision. By always trying to force outcomes to meet those expectations, we generate tremendous amounts of tension and stress. It is not uncommon at all for us to feel hollow, even when we are successful in forcing our expectations to fruition.

There is a lesson to be learned from the knuckleball pitchers of this world. In a somewhat ironic twist, we must learn the lesson of unlearning. What this means to me is that we should put our best foot forward in all we do and then stand back to let the ball of life flutter and land where it may.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

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