Monday, February 13, 2006

Cleaning the Boat

Any good sailor knows that the bottom of the boat is as important as the side we normally observe. On occasion it is required to turn the boat over for inspection and remove calcium deposits and barnacles. Perhaps add a new coat of finish. Until the boat is turned the 180 degrees it remains a mystery what you will find.

This past Saturday I ran in a track meet that was dominated by college and professional track athletes. Mixed in with these racehorses were some of the best masters (30 - 70 years old) track athletes to be found in the US. Since I will turn 55 this August I obviously fit into the latter category.

Over the years of my life I have learned that my soul does not age. Each morning when I look in the mirror I might actually see the physical attributes of a 54 year old man, but if I squint the eyes that belong solely to my mind, I know that my soul on this day can be any age I decide.

What do these three disparate paragraphs have in common?

In my mind they became linked sometime Saturday during the track meet. I felt as though I was figuratively turning the boat over for inspection.

The top side of the boat in my mind is represented by conventional thinking that says young people around us are misguided and not nearly so clear on values as they need to be. How many times do we see phrases similar to this displayed on magazines, or talked about by the elders, and perhaps some of us have even engaged in this conversation ourselves.

So let’s turn this boat over for inspection. I threaded my way through the young athletes on the coliseum floor Saturday noticing the faces that would turn my way and smile. They weren’t smiles of amusement at a 54 year old track athlete. The smiles were simply acknowledging; benign in a way. Many of these athletes had not experienced being mixed with masters athletes. As the meet progressed they became aware that the faces might look older but the skills remain and a percentage of these energetic kids were defeated by men the age of their fathers.

At some point the smiles became wider and the college kids began to talk with us. They spoke respectfully. They said sir. They thanked us for being there and they wished us luck for our season.

When I turn the boat of conventional thinking over the 180 degrees for a real and thorough examination I see young college kids that are respectful and well mannered. Their athletic work ethic was without question. They smiled and they welcomed us into their ‘thing’; and then they cheered us.

I was seeded into a 200 meter heat with college runners that were destined to run the course in 22 seconds. I ran 26 seconds which meant as I rounded the last turn I was at least 3 seconds behind the college kids. Throughout the race college athletes were screaming at the top of their voices encouraging me. They weren’t teasing me or making fun, it was different than that. They sincerely acknowledged my effort to chase these marvelously trained young cheetahs down the track.

These kids were quality humans ready to pass down the cultural values that make us all better people. Turning the boat over is sometimes necessary in our lives. The vision of how sound we are sailing can be made clearer when we look more carefully.

I watched these kids run with abandon and remarkable skill, flying around the corners and shooting up the straightaways with amazing strength and commitment. In doing this they blessed my ageless soul with a very valuable gift. It refreshed my vision. Do you remember the vision I discussed earlier? The ability to see your soul as whatever age you wish? These athletes were offering me the visual reminder of how to run and think young. They were offering cold refreshing water to a thirsty man. They were re-teaching me, and I plan to honor the lesson.

In this fashion they became the teacher of the elder. The boat had been turned and cleaned.

I thank them.


Reach said...

So well written. I can not help but wonder over your last statement. I wonder if Karma plays a fact in the respect in both, given and received. Had we not been respectful “kids”, would we not get respect as we age? Just a thought-


Seven said...

A very perceptive and provacative question.....let me know when you get it locked down...:)

LC Scotty said...


I have to wonder how typical these kids were. To be competitive at that level, they obviously have developed a level of discipline and focus not found in many adults, let alone folks in their late teens and twenties.

Just another reminder that the typical looking may not be. So typical, that is.

Seven said...

Very likely much truth to your comment. Just as there are wide differences in adults, it follows the same has a good chance of being true for the current college population.
I guess I made a universal statement that may not be that universal in fact, but I felt like thanking these kids for showing me they are not what we so often complain know it goes on generation after generation this youth bashing....thought I would hoist them up and salute them.
Your point is well taken and well received.
I'm betting there are some shallow ones out there too...but for the good's to em'

Reach said...

as think about my previous comment and read IC Scotty's thoughts; I am more inclined to think the foundation is "Self-Respect". IC mentioned discipline, which I know you are familiar, as your younger competitors, and each recognizing and, in your words, saluting the others with respect.
Just another thought.


Jenn said...

I think the various generations are similar once you get past the 'look' of different generations.

The bravado of youth might look different than we remember - but it's still bravado.

Remembering that as I get older is more difficult than I thought it would be...but I try.

Oh..and you didn't mention 'old man' strength. My dad talks about that - he'll be 60 this year. It's something not to be messed with from what I understand. You must have some...I think that was my time for the 200 in high school...'course, I'm a girl. ;-)

Nice running - seriously!

LC Scotty said...

"but for the good's to em' "

I'll drink to that-Cheers mate.

BTW, as an architect have you ever considered a trip to Buffalo? If you're ever up this way look me up and we'll toss back a few frosty ones.

Seven said...

Hey Jenn,
The time was a little off for me, but I have been maintaining an age group US and World Ranking in the top 20 recently in 100m and 200m. My coach ran a new world record time for men over 55 in my heat of the 60 meters that day; that's always memorable and exciting.
Your dad is right and be sure to tell him about masters track, maybe he will join us!
And if you have reached 30+, then you too. I outran 75% of the college girls, so you obvioulsy have legitimate speed!

Seven said...

Sounds like a good time......maybe if the Cowboys play the Bills we can do a video beer time.......of course we have Bledsoe now....I guess you guys know about that falling percentage as the season progresses...?

LC Scotty said...

Got the T-shirt, man.

Robert Shapiro said...

A wonderful analogy my friend and eloquent as always.