March 25, 2020—ten full days into shelter-in-place. COVID-19 was no longer a virus in a foreign land. I looked at my podcast playlist only to find that the next episode of On Being was entitled "Ross Gay: Tending Joy and Practicing Delight." All I could think was: "yes, please."
Krista Tippet's warm and welcoming voice was met with one that radiates what he writes. Ross Gay, a professor of English at Indiana University, is the author of a poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude and a book of essays, The Book of Delights. He co-founded The Tenderness Project together with Shayla Lawson. Poet, writer, teacher and activist who tends joy and practices delight? Thank you, very much. And yet, in light of what was happening around me, those dispositions felt out of touch. I wondered, What might he say?
According to the On-Being website,
There’s a question floating around the world right now — how can we be joyful in a moment like this? To which Ross Gay responds in word and deed, how can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this? He is a writer, a gardener — also a former college football player. To be with him is to train your gaze to see what’s terrible but also to see what’s wonderful and beautiful. To attend to and meditate on what you love, even within the work of justice. We practice tenderness and mercy in part because to understand that we are all suffering is one quality of what Ross Gay calls “adult joy.”What a test for our times. What a truth to behold.
Gay decided on this 42nd birthday to write a mini-essay every day for a whole year. Perhaps I should just speak for myself, but it seems that people often aim to do a given activity for one year. I'm curious to know how many finish the task.
Tippet said "I did not know that the word “essay” [essaie, essayer] in French, means “to try” or “to attempt” — that’s so great." And it is with that spirit—to try—that tacitly gave Gay the permission to begin!
Gay's findings served as the basis for this hopeful, wise, and for lack of a better word, delightful conversation with Tippet. She asked him, "So what surprised you, in the process of moving through that year and moving through that year looking for delight and writing about delight every day?"
He said, "Many things surprised me, I suppose. But one of the things that surprised me was how quickly the study of delight made delight more evident. That was really quick. And I wasn’t sure; I was a little bit like, 'This is gonna be hard, to just have something delightful happen every day'."
His insight however did not surprise me. I have always believed in a spiritual sense that "if you look for something you will find it." Seek out the good, and there it is. Unfortunately, the opposite is true, as well.
Tippet added, "You said somewhere that you developed a delight radar or a delight muscle." The athlete in me loves this metaphor. Flex, baby! Gay concurred, "Exactly, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s fun. It was fun."
"But what are some of the things that you noticed that you found delightful and called “delight” that you wouldn’t have imagined before you started?"
Gay said, "You know. It just occurred to me — it made me realize how often I am delighted, how often things happen that — like you were doing this hand gesture, and you were doing these hand gestures. I was like, “I love hand gestures,” when you were doing that. I do them too, with abundance."
I love that he loves hand gestures. And I love joy, delight and inspiration.
I don't have the self-discipline that Ross Gay has to write an essay every day for a year, but his experiment has stayed with me. And since I interviewed Coach Nielle Ivey and wrote the post "A (Case) Study for Perspective: Father Jenkins and ND Colleagues," I have been looking for inspiration and perspective every day. I'm happy to report that every day, either I find it or it finds me.
Thus, I would like to offer 100 examples of inspiration or perspective in Sports and Spirituality. I don't know how long it will take to post 100, but let's see what happens. I will let the (Case) Study for Perspective serve as number one and I need to write about the ND Women Connect Conversations with Coach Ivey (perhaps I will end with that?) In the meantime here are two to share.
2. The Standing Backflip
There are many things I will never do, never accomplish, nor master in my lifetime. The standing backflip is one of them. However, for Dan and Kristin Sheehan, this was a weekly if not daily practice as cheerleaders at the University of Notre Dame.
Today, Kristin is the Program Director of Play Like a Champion, an educational initiative that promotes ethics and character in youth, high school and college sports as well as workshops for coaches and parents! I have had the joy and delight of working with her and getting to know her and her family (their son Jack was the leprechaun 2018-2020)
On his 55th birthday, Kristin and Dan celebrated at the Michigan City Dunes where Dan was caught on film doing a standing back flip. Kristin wrote "still got it." Amazing! With jaw dropped, I couldn't help but clap for him in front of my computer screen! So inspiring.
3. The Winningest Coach
I'm pretty sure I've made the assumption that Luis Krug '79 clarifies and corrects. This Letter to the Editor in the Autumn 2020 issue of ND Magazine brought a good perspective. I work at a high school that has 26 varsity programs. We work hard not to overlook any program, or any coach. This letter was a great reminder.
A vote for Mike DeCicco
While I respect and admire Muffet McGraw’s career and her professional and personal approach to basketball, I would not say she’s the most successful Notre Dame coach since Knute Rockne. I believe the fencing coach Mike DeCicco ’49, ’50M.S. should garner that honor. His teams won more than 90 percent of their meets, set a sport record for the longest undefeated streak and won national championships as well. Multiple All-Americans and United States Olympians came under his tutelage. McGraw was a phenomenal coach who represented Notre Dame well and deserves honors. But this one I don’t think is hers.
—Luis Krug ’79
More inspiration...more perspective to come tomorrow. Join me in the search! Share what you find...and what finds you. Startlooking!
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