"maybe I like more fighting to win than [to] win," Rafael Nadal on how he gets to No 1 by thinking he's No 2.
Today's CityAM article - http://www.cityam.com/index.php?news=29445
Bridging the abyss - if only briefly
The hall was crowded. Everyone had come for the sermon, and most of us had dressed up to hear it, as if a stylish wardrobe improved comprehension. There were different kinds of listeners, of course: fastidious listeners (solid colors), listeners checking their watches (stripes); listeners with furrowed brows (wool); and some consulting iPhones (synthetic fabrics), because they could not bear to miss a nanosecond of news.
Our speaker was in good form. For these sermons, he pulls back from the generalities and details of leading a congregation in order to view humanity itself. He travels above the Earth for a while, and we like it. That is what we want from him: a little scholarship, a little philosophy, a little something to take home and put between glass covers.
Generally he starts with a joke. A ripple travels through the hall - it's like everyone waving in the same direction during the seventh-inning stretch, only this is the beginning of the game, not the end - and we relax. But the theme this evening was a melancholy one, and he got right to it.
He had been studying a certain philosopher from a century ago, who wrote about the existential distances that lie between people. He wanted us to think about it. We leaned forward, listening.
This was sad, dense, a little arcane, but also true. No matter how intimate people yearn to be with one another, there is very little lasting communion. Divorce rates are only the bluntest example. We seek closeness, but remain apart. We don't really understand one another. We perceive someone else, even when we love them, only by our imaginings.
Not happy-ending stuff. A few rows in front of me, a young couple had brought their baby in a snuggly. The father held it against his chest, bobbing up and down in a soothing mechanical way, while the mother listened. From the way she juggled blankets, bottles, and a pair of pink footsies, she was probably not often free of the baby. I wondered if she wished she were doing something more cheerful on her rare time off - say, bowling.
She was a charming baby, a quiet baby with only an occasional gurgle, and no one minded looking at her while listening to a sermon on the abyss. Latecomers were still trickling in. One of them, heading toward the bathroom near me, was heavily pregnant. She was being led by her future, literally, down the narrow space between rows of chairs. Walking anywhere in this crowded hall was nerve-wracking. It needed concentration and balance.
Excusing herself to one person after another, she noticed the mother of the charming baby first, and then the baby. She looked at the baby; she looked at the mother. They were two people who had not met before and might never meet again. Then the pregnant woman touched her heart.
Not a sound passed between them, not a word. But from across the abyss I heard. What they said to each other made me a little sad (my child will never be a baby again) but also a little defiant. We are not always stuck apart. We are not always strangers. I leaned forward, eavesdropping shamelessly, listening in my best clothes.
Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.