O Coach, Coach, wherefore art thou Coaching?

[5-minute read]

It’s hoopin’ time again. *swallows nervously, drums his fingers on the desk*

Can you hear the whistle blowing? I am blowing the whistle. On coaching. Mine.

I can’t just walk away, and I don’t want to, and I don’t think I necessarily ought to want to, but the apparently never-ending intra-cranial debate continues. And the scoreboard says WHAT? I don’t know why I should feel that I’m losing this contest, since I’m playing myself. But it’s a battle of divided wits, and there is always the fear of loss. Such is the mind of a man who wants Sudden Victory, in terms even his childhood self could understand. Confetti. Trophies. Hugs from my brothers, kisses from my wife. A microphone in my face; it wants to know how it feels for me to be Such A Champion. Guess what?

I still want to win.

So yes, that’s part of it. It’s probably not the most stone-headed story I tell myself about why I want to coach basketball, still and again and for who knows how long. There are other reasons, compulsions, purposes and afflictions. Some of them aren’t so savoury, while others leave a mainly good taste in my mouth. But in the pursuit of the recently proverbial (and ungrammatically concise) “Know Your Why”, let me start off being truthful, and hang the embarrassment:

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Better Read Than Never: Saul’s Unconscious Civilization 3

My first look at this book (and its author, John Ralston Saul) was here, and the first chapter was summarized here.

Saul called Chapter 2 of The Unconscious Civilization – the second of the speeches he originally gave as the 1995 Massey Lectures in Canada – “From Propaganda to Language”. To bring (Western, or maybe even global) civilization to a more conscious state, to encourage genuine democracy and real citizenship in pursuit of the general good, he advocates fundamental changes in the way that we communicate, and in the role of

JRS at the lectern.

education in producing such true and meaningful expression. These are big ideas. Saul is often criticized for his sweeping generalizations. Even his fans might find occasional pronouncements positively tsunami-like in their breadth, force and where-did-that-come-from suddenness. This is also his greatest strength: he describes philosophical and historical forests to a public too often entranced by the trees.

And speaking of sweeping general statements, then, here are my no-more-than-500 words in summary of “From Propaganda to Language” by John Ralston Saul:

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Eric Hoffer (on fearsome & fearful enemies)

“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”

I don’t know an awful lot about Eric Hoffer, or about where and when I came across this quote. Perhaps it was the one memorable line in another’s book, one that I’ve forgotten, but this citation has stayed in my mind. And now that, shamed by the ignorance I’ve confessed here, I know a little more about this mainly self-taught American intellectual (and migrant worker) and philosopher (who worked for decades as a longshoreman), I’m hungry to know more. His most famous book, published in 1951, was called The True Believer.

In my immediate surroundings, I can’t help but think of another quote, from my buddy Joe Pearce, that “China is a fear-based society”. Observing the alternating fear and boredom that oppress my Chinese students and friends, I try to determine what is their “enemy” — “fear itself”, the Roosevelts might have argued — and what that enemy, be it philosophical, historical, or institutional, most fears.

I fear that this is about to turn into an excuse not to write what I was going to write, so here I end.