“That was a bad throw!”
“Don’t you mean that was a poor catch?” John laughed as he watched his son chase the ball which had tipped off the end of his mitt. He hadn’t missed it by much. That gave John a small sense of pride – maybe his lessons were catching on. His son already had a better throwing arm than John had when he was that age, but catching the ball – that had some risk associated with it – the chance that if missed, the ball might hit the body behind the mitt, and that would hurt. ‘It doesn’t hurt if you catch the ball,’ John had advised him many times. John had used similar words when he had tried to teach his son to ride a bike. ‘If the horse throws you, get up and get back on it.’ John knew that these words were not his own, that they had been handed down, generation to generation – most of what John thought he knew had been handed to him by the world. John was still sorting through the advice of the world that he had taken on as he grew up, discarding what did not seem useful, and keeping only what aligned with his current view of himself. He was careful what he repeated to his son – at least most of the time. John didn’t want to pass on any of his own adopted fears to his son – he wanted to give him as clean a slate as possible on which to write his life.
“Catch this one, Dad!”
Before the ball left his son’s hand, John knew that it would fall short – he was too far away for the young arm. John swooped his mitt into the path of the ball and scooped it up on the first bounce.
“Not bad, little man.” John waited until his son trotted a bit closer. Range was important when learning to overcome fear. “I think your timing was a bit off. Practice throwing the ball hard into your mitt to get the feel of it.” John demonstrated, slapping the ball hard into his own mitt. He noticed how his hand responded to the cue of the ball striking the mitt, closing on it in reaction to the imposed force. “Here, you try it.” John tossed the ball lazily towards his son’s mitt. He caught it, barely.
“Keep your eye on the ball until it hits the mitt. Watch it go right into the pocket. Now, toss it hard to yourself and feel the impact before closing your hand and mitt around it.”
As his son complied, John reviewed his words. ‘Whose words are these? Who had taught him to catch a ball, or throw it, for that matter? A brother? A friend?’ John didn’t recall these words coming from his Dad. There were some things that he remembered that his Dad had taught him – how to change the tire on a car; how to light charcoal on the grill; how to drive a stick shift – but not much about sports. His Dad had been at work most of the time, it seemed. John had learned that from his Dad, he knew – ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees.’ That was one lesson that John was trying to unlearn even now. John’s ideas of what worked in the world had shifted as he had grown up.
There were many “lessons” that John had chosen to discard as no longer useful. While it seemed that the world was trying to teach John how things were, John had discovered that there were fear thoughts associated with much of it – maybe all of it! Even the words ‘Be careful’ were no longer serving John – he had let go of that farewell phrase long ago – replaced it with “Be present!” John had learned that what he feared, he actually attracted into his life. This was one lesson that he wanted to pass on into the future world of his son and anyone else close enough to listen. “What you resist, persists.” Who had shown these new truths to John? He didn’t remember, but he had discovered the truth of them for himself – often the hard way. John was still replacing reaction with observation, checking the thoughts in his mind against a new ‘scoreboard’ that measured success by peace of mind instead of acquisition.
“Throw the ball!” John readied himself for the catch, relaxing his body, softening his gaze, and slowing his breathing. His son wound his arm like a major league pitcher and whipped the ball directly at John’s face. Without thought, John stepped aside a bit, hand raising mitt simultaneously, eyes not focused on the ball but rather aware of the entire field in front of him and then of the object hurtling towards him. The ball slapped hard into the mitt. “Nice throw!” John reached into the mitt for the ball and started to cock his arm for the toss back – stopping when he realized that his son wasn’t looking at him, but was instead watching something on the street. His son stepped forward abruptly and stomped his foot, twisting his shoe as though to erase something under it.
“You killing ants, again? What’d those ants ever do to you?”
John knew that he had killed many an ant in his day, and that his Mom had probably used these same words many times as she attempted to instill respect for life in him. John also knew that the life of one ant was inconsequential in the “big picture.” He also knew that he had sprayed his house for bugs again and again, not particularly wanting to share his domain with them. John had no use for spiders and cockroaches. No fondness for snakes, either, to take it one step further. The day before, John’s son had stepped on an ant and John’s friend, standing close by observing had said “What if you were an ant and someone did that to you?” John hadn’t known exactly what to interject then, either, although he didn’t think those words were particularly helpful, either. And what to say, now?
“Hey, son – focus your energy on the game at hand.”
‘Hmm,’ John thought, ‘ those words seemed to have some “rightness” about them – and they seem to come from a place within – some place on the path of peace that John had seemed to adopt along the way of life. John’s son looked up without acknowledging that he had heard anything, but did ready himself for the next throw.
“Keep your eye on the ball. Watch it go into the mitt.” John noticed that he hadn’t exactly kept his eye on the ball for the last catch, but still found the words useful. They fit the moment that was imminent, anyway. He tossed the ball crisply to his son, focusing on his son’s mitt, and the pocket of it, in particular. The ball traced a slight arc through the air; his son’s arm extended towards it, and the ball hit the mitt with a thud.
“Great catch! Fire it back in here!”
John was grinning. The game was still on, and he was winning.
“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” ~ Deepak Chopra
“If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world.” ~Thomas Merton
“You never know the effect of a word or a thought – watch what you think.” ~Brian