Midnight Musings: Art and Athletics.

Since Penn has been blowing up the blogosphere, I feel as though I should write something too, so I decided just to post some of my late night thoughts:

As a member of both the Emerson Men’s lacrosse team and a part of the team that represents Emerson College in the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) people who first meet me are surprised to hear of the overlap. Often times people in the Athletics’s community are surprised to hear that I’m a poet and people in writing circles are surprised to hear that I’m a lacrosse player. But I would argue, that beyond even the narrow example of simply lacrosse and performance poetry, there is a strong correlation between arts, performance, and athletics.

One of these is definitely preparation. Both Artists and Athletes are in constant practice, be it mandatory and regimented or done voluntarily out of an emotional desire to recite or strum everyday or to get a run or lift in every night. I believe artists and athletes who take their passion(s) seriously have this work ethic. This desire to constantly progress and get better, to strive toward whatever individual goals one sets. And for me, personally, it’s all to achieve a feeling of mindlessness.

I know that the experience I have on stage is similar to the experience I have playing goalie for Emerson Men’s Lacrosse.There is this total focus, that in some ways feels like an out of body sensation. I believe it is a moment of clarity similar to those explored in the teachings and beliefs of Zen in Mahayana Buddhism, but a very fleeting moment. And that’s the rush, that moment. The rush that keeps us doing it despite sacrifices, ones that potentially effect our social life, physical health, emotional well-being, stress level etc. but yet we make them for that ability to escape from everything, if only for awhile. On the field and on the stage, there is nothing in my mind except the game or performance. For that brief period of time, there are no worries or thoughts, no regrets or concerns, just a total focus in the present.

And in a game or a show, this training is all building towards this moment of total joy. But a moment that is, in a sense, a gamble. A bad show feels like a loss. When no one is responsive in an audience, or when you finish a draft of a poem and it’s still not where you want it, it is a similar sensation to just standing on a field,  eleven points behind, watching the clock tick away. That’s not to say it doesn’t still make it worth while to do. You’re still performing, playing, writing, etc. and, well it’s like that saying about a bad day of fishin’. But the moments of success are Bliss. This total high. This firm belief that, “in this instance, right now, everything is going my way.” It an overwhelming faith and optimism, impervious to doubt. These moments of untouchable joy are more than a hope that all of the hard work put into your passion(s) will mean something, that every sacrifice has been worthwhile, it is a certainty.

So when you don’t get it, you want to know why. You analyze what you did wrong and practice to correct it. To get better next time, improve. There is an ambition to attain that feeling again and again. And the only other time I’ve experienced a similar jubilation to the one after watching my team win Thursday night, after two and a half years of work, (and not just any win, but  a come from behind, double-over time, win  against a team that, statistically speaking, we weren’t supposed to beat) is when there are people in the audience who are invested in my performance and after the show someone comes up to me and tells me how much what I did means to them. How much my work really affected them. A vindication of my art.

-Welch

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