To the spotlight operator, it’s just another night. Another show. Another transient gathering of pinstripe suits, twinkling diamonds, and feathered boas. They come in from all over the world, glittering and polished, to stand time still for a flickering hour, to bask in the unknown and the unpredictable, to say they were there, to hobnob beneath the halogens. For a brief moment, nothing else will matter, as everyone’s power is handed in to the performance, all the chips put in play, and then in a flash it will end.
The pageantry can only hide the steady progression of time’s river for so long. Like a white hot finale of fireworks, the brilliance will fade and drift through the empty sky of awareness, dissolving first into a puff of smoke, and then into the night itself. Silence will tuck it away for safe-keeping. Then, with alarming efficiency, what never was will be torn down and packed up, crated and shipped. The hall will be emptied. The stage will be cleared. The detritus of drink containers and snack boxes will be collected and crushed.
She’ll be long gone by then, the spotlight operator. As the fork trucks rumble to life in the hall, she’ll rise from her bed and too little sleep, and slip quietly down the hall to cook her son breakfast.
* * * * *
I haven’t written much about sport on this blog, but I think like anything, it’s what’s alive within the experience that matters– not how it’s dressed up for presentation. When I flopped on the sofa last night after a brief, end-of-week jog to vegetate for an hour, I happened upon a preview of tonight’s Floyd and Manny Show. When it was over, I realized somewhere along the way tears had come to pool in my eyes.
And for what…
I remembered that back when I started this blog, when I was taking my first timid steps into expressing myself in an open forum, I wrote a description of myself on the “registry” for a Course of Love—which I think has since been taken off-line– that was based on the image of Jesus as my trainer, whispering in my ear while I worked the bag, while I sweat out the toxins of my bitterness, my false starts and my conceptual selves. There’s a power in that image for me. There’s the devotion of Jesus, his carrying the knowing of a certain outcome, his drawing it forth through the purity of his presence, unwilling to settle for anything less than truth, and then there’s the power of inner strength becoming mobilized through action. Through willingness. Through stepping into the gym of life each morning and surrendering to its unerring discipline.
I don’t know squat about boxing, but I could see the way Manny’s trainer, suiting up each morning to tutor his pupil despite the looming challenges of Parkinson’s, was an act of Love. The way Manny returned it with his own devotion. The way fist hit fist, glove hit glove– pop, pop, pop!— in a ritual that was thousands and thousands of days in the making for those two. The way they met there, at the center between them, giving themselves wholly to the pure process neither could make on his own. The way they hovered around something wordless and elusive. I could see the way we build each other up with our relatedness, and our recognition.
There’s also something hidden deep inside the meeting of two personas in the ring– an intimacy I can’t explain but of which I caught a whiff. The vulnerability of putting it all on the line, of being known, of each heart being drawn out by the other. Of witnessing the familiar through difference. This may seem a romantic notion, and it obviously is, but I like to think the fight tonight is but a few hours in a vast trajectory. The questions it will ask of each man will burrow into them and steep for years to come. Each will be changed by each. Forever. Boxing is ultimately but one of an infinitely arrayed modes of expression, an avenue for discovery and relationship. Our lives are not made in the brightly lit moments, but in the thousands of days in the gym, before and after, where we encounter the fullness of our own hearts when no one else is looking.
The fight tonight is just sport. Nothing to get overly excited about, but perhaps an analog to the challenges of our own days and lives. It’s not a question for me about who will win. From the outside looking in, I can see it’s a journey towards revelation, it’s an encounter, a strange relatedness. There’s room in the peculiar brand of holiness with which I trade to see– right now– that Floyd possesses the heart of a man who could change the world. We’re all far greater than anyone we’ve ever been. There’s room for grace to find any being in any place and time. For eternity to tell its story through any and every available medium.
And it will.
For devotion and holiness are all there is.