“We have lost the ability to create metaphors for life,” wrote painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser. These words are written in Martin Schleske’s phenomenal work, The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty. Schleske is a German luthier, creating violins for some of the best soloists around the world. An “entry level” Schleske violin costs around $35,000. I will probably not be purchasing one for Kaylea any time in the foreseeable future.
In his book, Schleske adds commentary on Hundertwasser’s quote, “The events within and around us long for interpretation…Our role is to simply learn to pay attention.”
It is National Play Catch Week. I have loved following the stories of the Play Catch Movement. (Share your catch playing story for a chance to win a Nokona glove!)
I am convinced that playing catch is a timely and powerful metaphor for life.
Playing catch is relationship, an active display of trust, communication, and cooperation. Trust — it is not my intention to cause you any pain. Instead, I hope to create a connection and memory. Communication — there is a conversational rhythm to throwing and catching a ball. When I move my glove in a certain manner, I’m attempting to throw a particular kind of pitch. Even if I lack any execution whatsoever of said pitch. Cooperation — it is impossible to play catch alone. Playing catch is an activity of together, a celebration of with-ness.
Like any conversation, playing catch is about paying attention. Listening and responding to your partner. Being prepared to do your part for the good of the relationship, whether fielding a short hop or chasing down an overthrow. Being human is not about perfection, but adapting and persevering through life’s less-than-perfect moments.
There are those catch partners obsessed with trying to prove their worth and show off their talents, putting everything into every throw.
Decades ago, I had one such catch partner, as the coach often paired us together against my wishes. The oh-so-thin padding in my old glove didn’t help matters at all. No one wanted to play catch with this particular partner. His throws were not just hard but wild, sailing high over my head or bouncing at my feet. But he wasn’t playing catch; he was showing off. On one occasion, he barely missed beaning a teammate who was ten feet to my right.
There are times and places for throwing as hard as one can, rearing back and letting it fly. The outfield throw for a play at the plate. The shortstop throw to first from deep in the hole. And, of course, the bullpen. But not during a game of catch.
Once we are semi-confident in coordinating our hands and eyes to track and catch the ball, and equally semi-confident that our throws will go in the general direction we desire, we should forget about ourselves. Easier said than done, I know. It is difficult not to be self-conscious while playing catch, thinking about what your partner thinks about how you look throwing a ball. Center stage living: the effect of phones and cameras everywhere. I can watch all the slow-motion videos I want of Dan Quisenberry or Bo Jackson or Whit Merrifield, but it doesn’t mean I’ll ever look anywhere near as good while I’m throwing a ball. The prayer of the catch-player echoes Dan Quisenberry’s wisdom — May all of our deliveries succeed through our flaws.
I play catch, not working toward the end goal of professional baseball stardom, but to better appreciate life and those I encounter along the way. I play catch because playing is a critical part of being human. Those who don’t take the time to play are usually the first to criticize those who do.
The invitation to join the game is a judgment-free opportunity for all people. Tech-obsession has created lives far too sedentary; our mental and physical health are at risk from hours upon hours of sitting and staring at screens. Don’t ignore the invitation to use your gifts and abilities and participate in the game. It’s good for your soul.
Winning is not the point of playing catch. (Oh, my uber-competitive spirit needs to learn this over and over, again!) Playing catch is a gift, presenting us the priceless opportunity to fully live into the moment, free from yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s worries.
Grab your glove and a friend and see what playing catch can teach you.