Friday, August 11, 2006

Basketball and Church

I started playing basketball when I was about five... maybe six. I can still remember trying to dribble the ball and jumping up and down as the ball bounced and having very limited success in managing to keep it under control. Over the years, I devoted as much time to basketball as I could without letting it take away from my academic endeavors. Sometimes that meant I could play two hours a day, five days a week, sometimes I'd be away from the game for two weeks, even a month. Often I would take the time to just work on little details on my own - changing the angle at which I held the elbow, releasing the ball a fraction of a second earlier, making sure my right shoulder turned just a little bit more to square off on a turnaround jumper...

A funny thing happened in over twenty years of playing and especially working over little details. The basketball court became like a home. I would step over the line and the world would disappear. It still does. As I got closer to the Church, I realized that, in a way, the basketball court is, for me, a little like a church...

(jump) Lord Jesus Christ (release) Son of God (clank) have mercy on me a sinner... (return to the same spot and repeat).

I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of a game. And yet, there is something about being in the gym, alone, putting up shot after shot, working on the litte details, that defies description. There is quiet among the sounds of the ball bouncing and swishing through the net and in that quiet there is room for prayer, for thought, for patience to wait through the missed shots until everything feels like second nature again.

(jump) Lord Jesus Christ (release) Son of God (swish) have mercy on me a sinner... (return to the same spot and repeat).


Blogger Geo said...

I played a lot of basketball in my time. I'm 69 now and all the jump has drained from my legs. I played a lot of intramural ball in the navy too. I played a lot of pick up games in schoolyards and public parks as a kid. But I was always unable to restrain my competiveness and aggression. Do you play with fire and force, or does your calling restrain you? My cousin who was a Marianist brother for 11 years before he got married and left the brotherhood, though not his religion, was always a very competitive man. He still plays a mean game of tennis I'm told. I'm an atheist, but I do enjoy your writing and your spirituality. Though I am the least spiritual of men, I do believe in and have practiced all my life at the kind of enlightenment that Carl Jung urged upon us mere mortals. To me, the alteration of consciousness is a very material exercise aimed toward realigning my synaptical patterns which I think is what spiritual practice is also about.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous vandrona said...

I play with a lot of intensity, but I wouldn't necessarily call that aggression. I think one can be competitive, while still being friendly. Thank you for stopping by and I apologize for the long delay...

in Christ,

10:28 PM  

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