Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some thoughts about thoughts

"Rats, vats, well, if we knew all the things."

This statement was spoken by Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. Bloom was having a conversation about the rats found in the Guinness vats at the brewery. For some reason, it just popped into my head. I didn't see any rats. I didn't see any Guinness. It just materialized into a thought that had long since been buried. I haven't picked up Ulysses in months.

It relates to something I saw on a documentary about the human brain the other day. I've always been fascinated by the brain. It is a mystery not unlike the mystery of the universe itself. Indeed, one day we'll probably find out how they are interconnected. How can this squishy little pink piece of gore do what it does? We haven't even hit the surface of understanding about the way it works. Still, when a neuroscientist discovers a tiny piece of the puzzle, I greedily lap up the knowledge and try to apply it to everyday life. The documentary on TLC did that for me by discussing how athletes used to focus solely on building strength and muscle. Indeed, we have the stereotype of the dumb jock. However, humans have pretty much reached the limits of what they can do with their bodies at this stage in the evolutionary process. Sports equipment like pitching machines that can emulate a wicked curve ball, high tech video equipment, lightweight and breathable catchers equipment, scientific weightlifting and cardio machines, aerodynamically developed Easton baseball bats, and performance enhancing diets and dietary supplements can only go so far. Sports are increasingly turning to the brain to further competition.

Adam Dunn famously joked that he had only read two books in his lifetime. People laughed. This is what are society has come to - the mainstream has no respect for intellectual curiosity or development. We are a culture that drinks down sports as if they are an oasis in the desert of our mediocrity. We think dumb is funny. But what if we didn't? What if we glorified education and intelligence? What could our athletes do if they strove not only to train their bodies to be the best they can be, but also trained their minds?

The possibilities of humanity are only limited by our own biases and prejudices. People say, "that's just the way it is." But history is one long, continuous story of the progress and development of not only humanity but of all of creation. History is change. Won't it be something to see not just one Reggie Jackson quoting Shakespeare in a dugout, but a whole team of Jacksons discussing Joyce's post-modernist style? How about a Cy Young winner talking to the teammate on his right in flawless Spanish and then turning to the teammate on his left and conversing in flawless Japanese? Or a 50 homer a year slugger who can calculate the necessary degree of the angle of his swing to knock a ball out of the yard? What if a baseball player could find a way to keep the rats out of the Guinness?

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