Monday, November 1, 2010

Paradoxical Unity

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

I read something about the second verse of the Tao Te Ching from Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life”.  The verse describes the idea of paradoxical unity, contrasting sides. There is an apparent duality in the world where we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything is separate from each other. Things are either good, or evil, tall, or short, beautiful or ugly. What the Tao Te Ching explains is that one does not exist without the other.  It is neither good nor bad, it just is.  You can’t appreciate the good moments in life without the hard times, as you can’t understand what is beautiful for you unless you know what you think is ugly. That is the paradoxical unity, the tough experiences are there so we can better enjoy the highs in life. 

And someone made money with that idea?  Personally, it sounds like the philosophical equivalent of the Pet Rock (kids, ask your parents).  Painfully obvious, undeniably silly, yet oh so profitable.

It did, however, make me think about one of my personal quests, which I could sum up by saying, "There cannot be winning without losing."  I am looking to build a collection of sports photos that capture not only the moment of joyful victory, but the simultaneous searing pain of loss.  Actually, it's not as twisted as that sounds.

Here's my Wish List:

The Miracle on Ice – The epic USA Hockey team victory over the indestructible Soviets was a crushing loss for USSR.  Little did they know that the game would lead to a chain of event culminating in the election of Reagan and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  What I want is the shot taken after the game from the far end of the rink.  It shows the Soviet team lined up along the blue line in the foreground leaning on their sticks watching the exuberant USA amateur team celebrate what many consider to be the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.  The gravity of the Soviet loss crushed an empire.  The euphoria of the US victory saved a nation.

Pittsburgh in 7 – The Yankee dynasty was in full bloom in 1960.  They won the World Series 6 times in the 1950s, and 1961 and 1962, just to prove a point.  The team was anchored by some of the most famous names ever to play the game - Mantle, Berra, Maris, Ford.  In the greatest baseball Game 7 ever played (with apologies to Jack McDowell and the Minnesota fans out there), the Pirates won what they should have lost.  The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55 to 27 over the course of the Series, and still lost on defensive specialist Bill Maseroski’s unlikely home run in the bottom of the 9th inning.  The picture I want is the one of Yogi Berra’s back looking at the ivy covered fence, watching the ball just clear the wall.  I don’t need to see Maseroski circling the bases.  Yogi is slightly beginning to slow as he approaches the wall, and the body language captured in the photo says it all.  The Yankees lost.  It’s a minor plus that it is the Yankees losing.

The Giants Win the Pennant – Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard Round the World off Ralph Branca in the 3rd game of the 1951 playoff has been immortalized as perhaps the most dramatic single moment in baseball history.  The Giants and Dodgers owned the greatest rivalry in sports, and fought for the loyalty of all the New Yorkers who were not Yankee fans.  The picture I want is taken from center field towards home plate, just as Thompson is about to be absorbed by his cheering teammates.  In the foreground, however, is the immortal Jackie Robinson, frozen in his position at shortstop, soaking in the pain of loss.  Ralph Branca is also in the shot looking at the ground and walking alone towards the dugout, before he has fully comprehended the enormity of the moment and the change in the trajectory of his life.

What’s My Name? – It's a popular picture, but I still love it.  Every Man Cave needs either "Dogs Playing Poker", or this iconic photo.  Muhammad Ali towering over Sonny Liston in Miami, taunting him to get up and accept more of a beating.  The story leading up to this fight is a book in itself.

Thanks to a generous sister and brother-in-law, I already own a large color photo of Mookie Wilson motoring up the first base line as the hopes and dreams of Red Sox fans everywhere skip under Bill Buckner’s glove.  The photo is autographed by both Buckner and Wilson, who were certainly paid for their signatures, proving that the scapegoat can turn lemons into lemonade, and public agony into profit.

I will still laugh at the concept of paradoxical unity ("without up, there’s no down"), but realize that I appreciate the concept on a deeper level than I realized.  Any other photos to recommend?

Congratulations to the S.F. Giants, by the way.  Now, if I could get a shot of that bearded closer leaping in the air with G.W. Bush headed for the exit in the background...

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