Every now and then, when you write as a hobby, words spill out. It’s the physical act of ordering your thoughts. Mostly, they mean nothing. But you’d be surprised how many times our “nothing thoughts” are really just immature usefulness. So I write them down. Who knows? This stuff might be useful one day.
Kansas Jayhawk basketball kicked off their season on Friday with Late Night in the Phog. It’s always a good feeling because it’s new. Ignorance is disguised as optimism and “anything can happen” is an exciting phrase, not a foreboding one. Truth is, I’ve been waiting for this season to start ever since the last one ended in a heart-wrenching loss to the Michigan Wolverines. College basketball is a relentless cycle. Every year presents a team that is usually different than the year before, and with only two exceptions in my lifetime—the Championships of 1988 and 2008—every single one ends in pain. The beauty of a new year is not unlike finding a new girlfriend after a breakup. At least for a while, you can believe that this time will be different. This is the time where it will all work out.
Life always feels linear because we’re egocentric. What we feel more than anything else when we pause from our immediate sensual ingestion—most people just call it living—is that we’re aging. I wrote once that I thought we made minutes small to trick ourselves into thinking that life is long. But I think the real trick is that the minutia of time was built in cycles. Hours, days, weeks and seasons repeating in perpetuity so that the future always looks like a cul-de-sac instead of a dead end. You hear it more than you think. This is going to be my year. The sun will come up tomorrow. It’s always darkest before the dawn. It’s as if hope was built into the fabric of time. If God is real (and I believe He is), “there was evening and there was morning the first day” was a greater gift than we usually give it credit for.
I’m in a “wake-up” phase right now. It’s a term I made up for when you’re in the wake of a break-up and you have to pull yourself together to start dating again (it has the added bonus of sharing that confusing blend of dread and optimism we feel when we have to get out of bed and face the day). It’s the beginning of a new cycle, a relational cycle. For a long time I thought the beginnings were the best part because they’re innocent, unscarred by painful memories and the endurance of constant annoyances. I’m not sure when my understanding changed, but it did. There’s no such thing as innocence. It only seems that way because we’re too ignorant or stubborn to realize it’s not. I’m in the stubborn group. I ignore the flaws and believe the innocence because I want to see the beauty and intelligence and confidence that draw me in. I like picking someone for their positives. When the ignorance drops and the innocence fades, we’ll see if I can endure the negatives. This is the way all relationships work. The nature of strengths attract us, but the nature of weaknesses determines how long the relationship lasts.
I was born and raised in the state of Kansas. My father was a Jayhawks fan so I watched them with him. My relationship was built with the Roy Williams era. The strengths of those teams, nearly always a top-ten team, drew me in easily. And the only weakness I really recall is that they couldn’t get over the top, and that’s led me to annually rationalize why I’m okay with failure. After losing to Kentucky in the championship game of 2012, I wrote:
I had an old basketball coach that told me and my elementary-age teammates that the game could teach us about life if we’d let it. I’ve been trying to let it teach me for nearly 20 years, and it’s easy to think that the lessons are about work ethic, we before me, or one game at a time. Those are good lessons, but if there’s a lesson to rule all lessons, it’s understanding that while you can’t be perfect, you can try like hell. It’s why I believe that “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” is the truest thing ever said about the soul of competition.
If that doesn’t sound like a man in his final stages of grief, what does? Anyway, I don’t really have any other immediate thoughts on the topic. I mean, I definitely do, but I think when you’re confused, it’s best to just accept your confusion and focus on what’s in front of you. Sure, I originally planned on tying this post into something whole and circular, maybe back to why the Jayhawks got me writing. But you know what, life is unscripted, and so writing is too. Ramble on.
Now’s the time, the time is now.
Dusty “cycles, bitch” Riedesel