ONCE UPON A TIME, I had some ping pong skills, and then an optometrist said, “Here, try these bi-focals.”
I guess, technically, I still had the skills, but it helps if you can see the ball. If you’re over 40, you can empathize.
Ping ponging while bi-focaled is hard; heck, stepping off of a curb is an adventure.
Measuring your skills at things like ping pong, making chili, loud whistling, turkey calling, etc. requires a reference point—something or someone to compare thyself with. For several years in my ping pong career, my reference point was my oldest son, Corey. Early on, I could beat him every time we played (except for when I would “let” him win). And then he turned seven. The table turned, so to speak, and from time to time I got the feeling that he would occasionally let me win.
A vivid memory, and one of the last ping pong games I played: a fairly arrogant fellow (as compared to the norm in my head) come in to a rec center of sorts. Someone came over to me and said,
“That guy over there wants to know who the best player here is.” (They didn’t know Corey was there.) I walked over and said I’m the second-best player here, unless you’re better than me.
He smirked one of those cocky smirks and said let’s find out. He was good. I was better. My life as a human being is more significant for that win that night. Had we played a few more games he would have beaten me—he would have figured out how to return my serve. You see, if you have bi-focals and have a hard time judging the proximity, speed and spin of a ball coming at you, you solve the problem by having a nearly unreturnable serve so that it doesn’t come back over the table at you.
As the sun set on that day, I was still the second best player in the building. I know that because I had two points of reference: Corey, the best player, and this old guy with a Baker Mayfield-like obnoxious arrogance, whom I was better than.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching and hearing the stories about President George H.W. Bush. He is being remembered, and rightly so, as a war hero, and a humble and gracious leader who held his family in high regard.
I can’t help but wonder if his quintesscence isn’t somewhat heightened because of the current presidential point of reference. That’s not to take anything at all away from G.H.W.B.’s contribution to our nation through his service. Rather, I’m thinking that in ping pong and presidenting, maybe comparisons don’t tell the whole story at all. Maybe it’s best to remember each on their own.
In my understanding of the Divine, it IS that way. We are not graded or judged on the curve—compared with or to others; although the modern fundamentalist/evangelicals in their myopic, political worldview would have us believe it is so.
Here try these bi-focals or maybe these rose-colored glasses.
"For now we see through a glass darkly.” 1 Corinthians 13:12