Monday, April 30, 2012

Relativity Theory

In high school, I was a member of the boys gymnastics team.  I competed on the parallel bars.  In gymnastics, especially if, like me, one competes in just one or two categories, there is a lot of waiting around.  In practice, you spend most of your time waiting to use the equipment.  During competitions, you spend most of your time waiting to perform your routine.  At practice one day my sophomore or junior year of high school, waiting my turn to run through my routine on the parallel bars, I had an epiphany.  Nearly 25 years later, I still remember that epiphany.   While waiting in line, I was watching one of my team mates practice some moves on the equipment.  He was a relatively short young man compared to the rest of the male student body at my high school.  He was probably five foot three or five foot four.  At the time I was probably about four feet tall.  This was the mid 1980's.  So limb lengthening wasn't as well known as it is today.  In fact, I probably had never heard of limb lengthening at the time. But I remember thinking, if I grew ten inches, I would still be considerably shorter than my team mate, who himself was considered a short guy himself. 

Because we spent so much time on the gymnastics team sitting around thinking about things, a lot of us considered ourselves amateur philosophers.  In fact, a small group of us would go out to Burger King once or twice a week after practice.  One of us would go up to the counter to order a large soda while the rest of the group found a table hidden away in the back of the restaurant.  We'd sit around for about hour talking about what we imagined were deep issues, sharing the soda and sneaking refills at the soda fountain.  With this amateur philosopher status in mind, I told my team mate about my epiphany when he finished his set on the parallel bars.  He and some of the others waiting around near the equipment appeared pretty impressed.  With his feet on the mat, and his arms resting over the bars, he gazed off toward the wall of the gym.  "Wow," he said.  "You are right."  

Though we were full of ourselves, selfish, and a little pretentious to sit around Burger King, pretend to be Albert Camus, and steal soda, I did learn something that day at gymnastics practice.  I learned that height would never really be an issue. Sure, I can't reach half the stuff I want at the grocery store, I can't ride the Batman Roller Coaster at Six Flags, I half to jump up to avoid getting knocked over by a ski lift, and people sometimes condescendingly call me "Big Man!"  But no matter what height someone is, a few more inches would always do some good.  Just ask Russell Wilson, one the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL draft, but whose stock was low because he is just five foot eleven.  I need more than a foot and a half just to get to five eleven.  I learned that day that, like so many other things, height is relative.  Yes, it is a concrete number.  But compared to the many other things that are used to measure a person's life, it is relatively insignificant.  Rather than worry about ten inches, six inches, or four inches, it better to invest in attributes that better define who we are -- trust, honesty, dependability, educations, professional skills, experience, etc., etc.....  Not that I have much of any of those.  But they seem like more worthwhile investments. 

That is what I learned so many years ago at gymnastics practice.  Perhaps a little corny, but no more corny than sitting around Burger King acting like Camus. 

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