Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Send From Yourself What You Hope Will Not Return...

In the book, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, a young tennis prodigy is learning how to transcend his limitations, develop his talent and manage his fear. It seems to me that DFW is always operating at at least two levels - talking about one thing but at the same time something else (some have suggested his style is fractal). In this case talking about tennis and how to improve your game but at the same time talking about hope, fear, understanding, fathers and sons, parents, the "long waking dream". What son/daughter does not emerge from the family in a "feral and flux-ridden state with respect to their talent" as they try for the rest of their life to "justify their seed"? This, according to our young competitor, is how the Game is played...

"Have a father whose own father lost what was there. Have a father who lived up to his own promise and then found thing after thing to meet and surpass the expectations of his promise in, and didn't seem just a whole hell of a lot happier or tighter wrapped than his own failed father, leaving you yourself in a kind of feral and flux-ridden state with respect to talent.

Here is how to avoid thinking about any of this by practicing and playing until everything runs on autopilot and talent's unconscious exercise becomes a way to escape yourself, a long waking dream of pure play.

The irony is that this makes you very good, and you start to become regarded as having a prodigious talent to live up to.

Here is how to handle being a feral prodigy. Here is how to handle being seeded at tournaments, signifying that seeding committees composed of old big-armed men publicly expect you to reach a certain round. Reaching at least the round you're supposed to is known at tournaments as "justifying your seed." By repeating this term over and over, perhaps in the same rhythm at which you squeeze a ball, you can reduce it to an empty series of phonemes, just formants and fricatives, trochaically stressed, signifying zip.

...Try to let what is unfair teach you.

...See yourself in your opponents. They will bring you to understand the game. To accept the fact that the Game is about managed fear. That its object is to send from yourself what you hope will not return.

On this issue there is no counsel; you must make your best guess. For myself, I do not expect ever really to know.

But in the interval, if it is an interval; here is motrin for your joints, Noxzema for your burn, Lemon Pledge if you prefer nausea to burn, Contractol for your back, benzoin for your hands, Epsom salts and anti-infammatories for your ankle, and extracurriculars for your folks, who just wanted to make sure you didn't miss anything they got."

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