A talented basketball player can shoot three-pointers in a quiet gym. Envisioning himself making every single shot attempt throughout a game yet still being required to knock down a game-winner with only moments on the clock. Perfection on the court, it would be.
A pianist can play to his heart’s delight, secluded with a baby grand, imagining an audience of thousands. The heavenly sounds of which have never been heard and are never to be heard again. Perfection of a masterpiece, it would be.
But how does a man practice being one’s full self to others? How does one visualize success as a human being in the context of a consensus-driven, crowd-dependent society?
Over the years, and increasingly in recent months, I have felt the weight of not being my complete self to others. I fear my form of self-administered practice has not been fruitful in my personal relationships.
I have a very good sense of the person I am. More and more, through God’s grace, I am beginning to understand both the person I am supposed to be and the things I am supposed to do.
Despite this growing sense of clarity, what I struggle with is the completeness of myself in relation to my existence with other people.
Family. Friends. Lovers. Co-workers. Acquaintances. Strangers.
In a lot of ways, I feel most complete around strangers. With them, I am just a man with a face and a stride and a look. “He’s going somewhere,” I imagine them thinking, before the next person walks by taking their focus, mental and visual, elsewhere. The closer the non-strangers get, the more informed the relationship, the less complete I become all while becoming more familiar. The knowing part, I’ve learned, has become my disguise for understanding.
My mother, my brothers, my closest friends…they understand. Mostly, I suppose,. but then simultaneously not at all. At times, no more than strangers.
They know my voice, my style, my musical taste, my views on current affairs, my politics, my sources of income. Yet that very knowledge leads to a failure to get a complete picture. I have mastered the art of filling the picture up, making it so well-rounded, so full, so robust with ambition, charisma, creativity, energy, experience, lessons, opinions and successes that the Polaroid looks more like a Picasso.
Some have chosen to hang onto this Polaroid until it becomes a true form of art. Joah Spearman, in the eyes of these varied and loving beholders, may appear to be worth closer examination, but the museum requires five feet of distance. The assumption soon becomes that the interpretation of this art is total; the distance is what enables understanding.
But this is a lie of self-inflicted magnitude.
Have I created this distance? Do I make this museum’s rules? Have I curated my life in such a way?
But for what cause? What purpose?
I am beginning to understand now.
I am learning that my practice – even in the presence of others – is akin to those three-pointers or that concerto.
My practice is that of a man rooting himself so deeply in his own existence and performance of life that he visualizes perfection – the game-winner, the standing ovation – in a world where perfection is sought, but seldom truthfully desired and, even less so, pursued.
If the art is perfect, then can there still be varying interpretations?
We all have our own mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. We are all unique. We each have a different sense of what perfection may mean. For me, wanting to be the same person to everyone is an odd goal to have, and an even stranger way to perceive perfection, but it has become my own.
I am now realizing my primary effort to create distance between my full self and the version of myself known to others is not the best way for me to practice a day when my visualization – when the person I want to be for myself is identical to the person I want others to want me to be – becomes reality.
So I beg your forgiveness. There will be times when I sit in crowded rooms, with friends and family, with you even, yet my mind will wander. I apologize.
I have, until now, for years assumed there is no other way to practice my shot or my performance than during my time with you.
What I now know is that removing that distance will allow me to turn those three-point attempts into lay-ups with you all assisting (and me assisting you in your life). Those are the types of shots seldom given in life, and my family and friends are placed here for me to make this life of mine a helluva lot easier, not harder. It’s in my nature to bring the ball down the court myself, but it’s not something I should try committing to for an entire lifetime. I now accept that.