I was waiting for someone in the park the other day and a man and three boys were playing a mini-version of soccer. A toddler wandered over and joined in. She walked under the legs of the man and got the ball and nudged it with her foot. She was intrigued as was I, and so here is Verlyn on the subject of our entrancement with bouncing, tossing, and hitting a ball.
By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: April 5, 2010
It is practice day at the start of a junior tennis tournament in Southern California. And because it’s a warm Sunday afternoon, the ball is in play all across the region — any ball, on every patch of grass, every field and diamond and pitch. At the clink of an aluminum bat and the convergence of female softball players, two boys under a nearby hoop stop facing off to see how the play turns out. So do some casual soccer players just over the fence. I feel for a moment like an alien, entranced by our fondness for small representations of the spheroid on which we live. How we love to test gravity and admire the trajectory of a spinning orb!
Above all, these are games of interception, games about striking and stopping, meeting and returning, launching a ball or interrupting its decaying orbit with a glove or foot or bat or racquet. And there’s something entrancing, too, in the fields of force — the carefully chalked and painted lines — that seem to govern these games.
Down at the tennis courts there are four juniors on every rectangle, but they’re practicing one on one, each pair keeping to each side. Between the courts, two girls lob a ball back and forth over a bench. Down the sidelines, the young players walk. Their faces haven’t grown into their bodies, or their bodies haven’t grown into their faces. On the court, they clout the ball with an intensity separate from age or size.
I see nearly every word I’ve heard from a tennis coach embodied out there. The forehand leaves only a faint puff of dust lingering in the air. I watch one player whose backhand is a perfect Justine Henin. They are lost in a synchronicity of eye and hand and ball, caught up in an internal calculus that even I can sense when I hit a ground stroke squarely.
Just what this joy of eye and hand and ball should be called is hard to say. But it is ubiquitous here. The other day I stopped at a railroad crossing near dusk. As the train passed, I watched a middle-aged man hitting a tennis ball against the side of a building next to a lumberyard. The asphalt at his feet was cracked and pitted, but he knew the surface, and he knew his game, and it looked as if he could have played all night.
Here is Stewart Brand with a synopsis of the David Eagleman talk to the Longnow Foundation.
Civilizations always think they're immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving "nothing but runes and scattered genetics." It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization:
1. "Try not to cough on one another." More humans have died from epidemics than from all famines and wars. Disease precipitated the fall of Greece, Rome, and the civilizations of the Americas. People used to bunch up around the infected, which pushed local disease into universal plague. Now we can head that off with Net telepresence, telemedicine, and medical alert networks. All businesses should develop a work-from-home capability for their workforce.
2. "Don't lose things." As proved by the destruction of the Alexandria Library and of the literature of Mayans and Minoans, "knowledge is hard won but easily lost." Plumbing disappeared for a thousand years when Rome fell. Innoculation was invented in China and India 700 years before Europeans rediscovered it. These days Michaelangelo's David has been safely digitized in detail. Eagleman has direct access to all the literature he needs via PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Books. "Distribute, don't revinvent."
3. "Tell each other faster." Don't let natural disasters cascade. The Minoans perished for lack of the kind of tsunami alert system we now have. Countless Haitians in the recent earthquake were saved by Ushahidi.com, which aggregated cellphone field reports in real time.
4. "Mitigate tyranny." The USSR's collapse was made inevitable by state-controlled media and state-mandated mistakes such as Lysenkoism, which forced a wrong theory of wheat farming on 13 time zones, and starved millions. Now crowd-sourced cellphone users can sleuth out vote tampering. We should reward companies that stand up against censorship, as Google has done in China.
5. "Get more brains involved in solving problems." Undertapping human capital endangers the future. Open courseware from colleges is making higher education universally accessible. Crowd-sourced problem solving is being advanced by sites such as PatientsLikeMe, Foldit (protein folding), and Cstart (moon exploration). Perhaps the next step is "society sourcing."
6. "Try not to run out of energy." When energy expenditure outweighs energy return, collapse ensues. Email saves trees and trucking. Online shopping is a net energy gain, with UPS optimizing delivery routes and never turning left. We need to expand the ability to hold meetings and conferences online.
But if the Net is so crucial, what happens if the Net goes down? It may have to go down a few times before we learn how to defend it properly, before we catch on that civilization depends on it for survival.
Stewart Brand -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Long Now Foundation - http://www.longnow.org
Seminars & downloads: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
and one might add, those who are uneducated and are not educated -