Thursday, June 9, 2016

Truth and The Story Behind "The High Five"

Truth has a funny way of revealing itself, of being made known and understood. Truth is truth, whether or not I agree with it (that's another thing that's funny about truth). I've encountered truth through literature, art, Scripture, prayer, the classroom and in unlikely places too. I've found truth on the N Judah Muni line, in Yosemite Valley, and in a yearbook inscription. The other way I've found truth is in one of the simplest and most basic gestures—the high five. Here's the story...or stories. 
When I was in high school I could not wait for the distribution of yearbooks and the ritual of signing them. This was an important tradition to me. I was anxious to read what certain people might say. I was hoping others—certain boys—would ask to sign mine. I remember taking home the yearbooks of good friends because I had a near treatise of memories to recall.

Having an older brother, I also couldn't wait for the opportunity to look through his for several reasons. One, Mark attended De La Salle, an all boys' school. Though we largely went to "one school with two administrations," my high school, Carondelet had a separate yearbook. Thanks to him, I got to look through their annual. Two, as his annoying younger sister, I wanted to know what his friends wrote. My sister and I would tease him about what certain girls said and the phone numbers he got.   

I love this photo because it captures an "hell yeah" type of high-five. sometimes that's how you feel...
To this day, I can recall certain witty or creative messages. and a strange one. It said, "We mock what we don't understand." Why my brother's friend wrote this, I'm not sure—it's a bit sardonic for a yearbook posting—no? However, it has stayed with me and I think that's because it points to a certain truth. He's on to something. If we truly understand a person, a place, an idea, I don't know that we mock it (...although that's not entirely impossible). And I was reminded of it last week when a friend put down what I consider to be a positive, fun hand gesture: the high five. 

She said "the high five is lame. I think it is so overused and have don't have a lot of respect for people who use them." I had heard similar complaints about "The Wave" but never the high five.

I consider the high five a fundamental extension of our humanity. I can recall my nieces at 16 months learning to high five. We loved it. I think of the times I crave "a little of that human touch" (thank you Bruce Springsteen) and how in those moments, the high-five is relatively sufficient. For example, I've been excited to see my seniors after a big game or an big moment. A hug isn't entirely appropriate—however, a timely high five is. 
I think Iggy is giving Klay a big "oh yeah" type of high five here.
I think of many iterations of this hand slap and the degrees of emotion that characterize each one. Sorry folks, but when Klay Thompson drained that 3-pointer with 1:35 left in Game 6 to put the Warriors up by 3 against OKC, I reached across to Amy—a friend I've had since high school—and I gave her a high-ten with so much power and attitude, you would have thought I made the shot. (I'm sure there was a massive overbite going on at that moment too). No, in my world, there was no need to make an argument for the high five.

As I was thinking of the memorable high fives, of why and how it's fun, of a world without them, or making my case for them, another co-worker asked us if we had seen the "30 for 30" Short: The High Five.  We hadn't. He debriefed us on the story...I think you should watch it now.
I watched it and found myself totally unprepared—emotionally—for what lies behind this simple extension of one palm—raised in the air—as it meets another. Former LA Dodger, Dusty Baker who was in on the inception of the high five said "sometimes you don't know why you do the things you do, especially when you're extremely happy—you just respond to each other." That's part of how the high five was born....but there's more to it. My friend Elizabeth who once mocked the high five said "I have a whole new respect for the high five. Although, I will say I am an amateur high fiver due to my past reservations. Thanks for sharing Sean!" #truth

The conclusion of the video honors Glenn Burke, the inventor of the high five with these words: "A newspaper reporter tracked him down years after he had retired, and they asked him about the high five, he said "think about the feeling you get when you give the high five. I had that feeling years before anybody else." There's another type of truth in that. 

I hope when I get to heaven—pending God's approval—that I'm greeted with a high five from Dawn Hanson—my grade school track coach, Clarence Clemons, St. Peter and the inventor of it: Glenn Burke. RIP

Photo Credits
The High Five: Glenn Burke

1 comment:

  1. You and Sarah rifled through my yearbooks? What happened to taking the high road? :-)