Skip to main content

Life: It’s Like a Ball

I like working on a college campus.  Of course, it has some drawbacks, but for me personally the advantages far outweigh those drawbacks.  Part of what I like so much is the range of things that go on.  There is a huge range of things that students study.  Some things I know quite a bit about and other things, I barely know what the subject means.  And when you have this many people united in one enterprise called a college, there is an amazing diversity of abilities and talents.  Music, art, clubs, work and so much more make the array of possible involvement feel almost limitless.           

One thing I did not mention in the list was sports.  I like sports.  I played sports and I still like to watch sports.  I would be the first to admit that sports in America are probably out of whack.  There may well be too much time and money spent on a variety of games.  This seems particularly true of professional sports.  I am not too much into pro sports.  I am convinced something happens when people start getting paid to play things like basketball, baseball and all the others.  And it really feels ironic to think some Saturday autumn days, 100,000 people will gather in a stadium to watch 22 guys on a field playing football!          

I like to go to different venues on my campus and watch the sports teams practice.  It is fun because of knowing so many of the athletes.  At the collegiate level where I teach the athletes are pretty good, but they are not getting paid, nor will they get paid.  They will have to figure out another way to make a living.  So that’s life.  Play for fun.  And then become a “weekend warrior” like the rest of us who like to play sports into our middle and old age.  But nobody is going to pay me to play any sport!  That’s life!           

It hit me one day as I had drifted around to watch three different sports teams practice.  All three sports needed a ball in order to play.  But they were very different kinds of balls.  I caught a bit of the tennis team practicing.  I have played some tennis, so I know how small and relatively light a tennis ball is.  And that ball is fairly bouncy.           

Then I moved on to the soccer field.  I have much less experience playing soccer.  It still feels a little odd to me not to be able to use my hands.  A soccer ball obviously is much bigger than a tennis ball.  But it still bounces in a similar way.           

Finally, I caught the end of the football practice.  It takes no imagination to realize how different the football is from the tennis and soccer ball.  I watched the kicker sail the ball fifty yards.  When the ball hit the turf, I could not guess which crazy way that thing might bounce and careen.   

That is when the metaphor entered my mind.  Life is like a ball.  We bounce along through time.  Like a ball, life has a time and then it no longer will be “playable.”  At some point, the air goes out—the ball becomes flat and life ends in death.  It’s a good metaphor for me.  But there was more. 

Life may be like a ball, but the question is, what kind of ball?  Is my life like that tennis ball?  Am I more like the soccer ball?  I might actually be a bowling ball.  If my life is like a football, then that will be a very different kind of life!  I was intrigued.  How might I determine which kind of ball most characterized my life and what could I learn from this? 

Then another thing hit me.  There is a common saying that I heard countless times.  “That’s the way the ball bounces.”  Typically when someone says that, the person is suggesting things are out of control.  But I realized that is not quite true for all kinds of balls.  I played basketball and when I bounced that ball, essentially I controlled it.  It bounced “true.”  Maybe some of our lives are like that basketball.  In that sense our lives are “true.”  We may not be in total control, but life is fairly predictable and we seem to have life in hand.  Our life bounces along in good fashion with little surprises.

Of course, there is the football!  If life is like a football, then control is an issue.  When life is like a football, life becomes unpredictable, surprising, uncontrollable, and so on.  Some people I have known certainly have had “football lives.”  Compared to my life, their lives were crazy---often with weird bounces. 

But then I had one final revelation.  Maybe each of us does not have one “ball life.”  My life is not like a basketball---not all the time anyway.  In reality I think we all have various “ball lives.”  My life may be more like a basketball---fairly predictable, etc.  But there have been seasons where my life was much more like a football.  I careened and bounced in ways I could not predict or control.  All I could do was try to respond and manage my bouncing life.

So what?  If we know “that’s the way the ball bounces,” we can play the game of life to the best of our ability.  If we do that, God will declare all of us winners!

Popular posts from this blog

Inward Journey and Outward Pilgrimage

There are so many different ways to think about the spiritual life.And of course, in our country there are so many different variations of religious experiences.There are liberals and conservatives.There are fundamentalists and Pentecostals.Besides the dizzying variety of Christian traditions, there are many different non-Christian traditions.There are the major traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on.There are the slightly more obscure traditions, such as Sikhism, Jainism, etc.And then there are more fringe groups and, even, pseudo-religions. There are defining doctrines and religious practices.Some of these are specific to a particular tradition or a few traditions, such as the koan, which is used in Zen Buddhism for example.Other defining doctrines or practices are common across the religious board.Something like meditation would be a good example.Christians meditate; Buddhists meditate.And other groups practice this spiritual discipline. A favorite way I like to …

A Pain is not a Pain

A rose may be a rose, but a pain is not a pain.  Maybe somebody has said that before, but I have never heard it.  So I am assuming (for the moment) I made it up.  Of course, most of us have heard that line, “a rose is a rose.”  I don’t know who said it first or if I should give it a footnote, but I do know that I did not create that line.  Furthermore, we all could explain what the phrase, a rose is a rose, means.

However, if I say, “a pain is not a pain,” the reader may not be too sure what I mean by that.  And if the reader is unsure, he or she does not know whether to agree with me or say balderdash!  So let me explain it by some development.

For sure, every adult knows what pain means.  It is difficult to imagine living into adulthood and not experiencing some kind of pain.  There is physical pain; we all know this.  There is emotional pain----a pain many people know all too well…and others may barely know.  There may be something like spiritual pain, but this one is tricky.  Not …

Spiritual Commitment

I was reading along in a very nice little book and hit these lines about commitment.The author, Mitch Albom, uses the voice of one of the main characters of his nonfiction book about faith to reflect on commitment.The voice belongs to Albom’s old rabbi of the Jewish synagogue where he went until his college days.The old rabbi, Albert Lewis, says “the word ‘commitment’ has lost its meaning.”
The rabbi continues in a way that surely would have many people saying, “Amen!”About commitment he says, “I’m old enough when it used to be a positive.A committed person was someone to be admired.He was loyal and steady.Now a commitment is something you avoid.You don’t want to tie yourself down.”I also think I am old enough to know that commitment was usually a positive word.I can think of a range of situations in which commitment would have been seen to be positive.
For example, growing up was full of sports for me.Commitment would have been presupposed to be part of a team. If you were going to pl…