R. H. Blyth wrote, “Wherever there is a poetical action, a religious aspiration,a heroic thought, or a union of the nature within man and the Nature without, there is Zen.”
Prompt: Respond to one or more elements of Blyth’s perspective.
Raymond Iverson was the next student to share his assignment; and when called on, he used his phone–already open on his desk–to email four photos to Ms. Maycomb.
“How did you get my personal email address?” Ms. Maycomb asked, when the email arrived.
“I have all my teachers’ personal emails in case I need another channel of communication.”
“What does that mean?” Ms. Maycomb asked as she opened the photos on her desktop computer without displaying them on the whiteboard. “These are just pictures of a basketball practice,” she said, looking from photo to photo.
“I’ll start explaining when you show the first photo.”
Since the first day of class, Ms. Maycomb had found Iverson unsettling. From his attitude, she had assumed that he would drop her AP class before the first week of school ended; but, instead, he turned out to be one of her smartest students, although he still occassionally flashed that middle-school mentality in which teachers are either pawns to be manipulated or martinets to be humiliated, he was transitioning to the mindset that accepted the need to mollify recommendation-writing teachers.
“Here’s the first photograph,” she said, displaying on the whiteboard a photograph in which the high school’s basketball team was conducting a scrimmage.
“Look to the right of the picture,” Iverson said. “There’s two players to pay attention to–one is the senior captain, Phil Coover, and the other is a sophomore named Gibson who’s been moved up to the varsity. Gibsons’ already a better player than Phil and the second after this photograph is taken, he anticipates Phil’s crossover dribble and steals the ball.”
Iverson gestured at Ms. Maycomb to display the next photograph, and when she did, he said, “You can see the two of them running down the floor now. It’s an open scrimmage so me and some friends are watching from the bleachers, and we’re sitting right in front of where Phil and Gibson are going by. What you should look at is their faces because Gibson knows he’s got a clear lane to the basket with the ball he’s just stolen and that Phil can’t catch him, but you don’t see that in Phil’s face; instead, he’s running flat out like even if he can’t reach Gibson before the layup, Phil’s got something else in mind.”
“This is excellent photography,” Ms. Maycomb says, “but I don’t see the relation to the assignment.”
“It’s the emotional truth that Thompson was talking about before,” Iverson says. “Phil knows right when Gibson steals the ball that Gibsons is a better player and will be starting in Phil’s place, and Phil hates him for that, and he hates him for showing him up in front of the team. You can see it in Phil’s face. So go to the next photo to see the image that you said poetry is all about.”
Ms. Maycomb displays the third photograph in which the younger player is extending himself for the layup while Phil Coover, following close behind, is stretching out and laying his hands on Gibsons’ back. Without prompting, Ms. Maycomb projects the fourth and last photo in which Gibson is lieing on the court at the base of the wall he has been pushed into.
“You could hear Gibson hit the wall from anywhere in the gym,” Iverson said, “and the coach spent the next ten minutes getting help for Gibson and yelling at Phil; but that anger won’t last, because with Gibson casted up with a broken arm and seeing double with a concussion, Phil will just sit for a couple non-conference games.”
“How,” Emily Thompson said, “is that possibly poetical action? How is that anything but naked aggression?”
“It is naked agression. That’s the point,” Iverson said. “If you want emotional truth, don’t stand outside a church the way you did or practice cheerleading like Ashley; just watch what happens when a sophomore takes away a senior’s spot on a team.”
There was a moment of silence that Ms. Maycomb normally would have entered into and used to shape the discussion, but instead she sat looking at the photograph of the boy lying on the basketball court. “Perhaps,” she finally said, “we need to talk about the line between art and life. And this will not be a discussion where I have answers that I want you to guess at because I have no idea how to address what Mr. Iverson has just said.”
To be continued . . .