Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dear Joseph,

Tomorrow, Papa will leave on a ten day trip to teach kayaking, to paddle and to do some camping. sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it is, but it also is somewhat dangerous, and I'd like to talk to you about that.

We guys like sports and all sorts of out door activities. Generally, sports fall into two categories. In the first are sports in which we keep score and judge our success by whether or not we win. Success, therefore, is achieved by beating someone or some other team. This doesn't tell us much about ourselves since we can play poorly and still win if the other side really stinks. But there is the other type of sport, the one that is inherently risky while offering a different reward.

Kayaking, climbing and skiing are such activities. They are somewhat dangerous and can be done with no one else around, at least no competitor. Success here is achieved merely by doing it. Go out in a kayak into a 6 foot surf, have a good and safe time, and you've won without defeating another person. You've won by your wits and skills, and you have to be good enough to beat the elements. The victory is not in the score ( there is none) but, rather, in the self satisfaction of knowing what you can do and having the courage to go out and do it. The only "competitor" is yourself and the elements.

This is the kind of thing I enjoy in life. Marathon running was like that for me. It was me and the clock. I had no ambition to beat anyone else, I was never at that level anyway. I wanted to be able to train and complete the 26.2 mile run, and I did it at an 8 minute/mile pace.

On the other hand, I loved Judo and taught it for years. Once in a while, I would enter matches where the whole idea was to win over my opponent. But, even there, my real challenge was waiting as I stood before a bigger and equally skilled man and going inside myself. My challenge was to remain absolutely calm as I stepped onto the mat, sometimes before large audiences, and took hold of the other man's Gi. Weaker and smaller, I had to remain fully relaxed and calm so that when the other guy made that very slight off balance move, I was able to act out of reflex, with no thought, and with lightening speed, and throw him to the ground.

I hope I get to see what things you like to do, and I hope you find the activities that satisfy your inner callings. I hope you choose what gives you satisfaction and fits with who you are. If you want to play baseball fine, but it isn't for everyone, and you are not everyone. You are Joseph, and I love you.

Papa loves you.

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