basketball ideas ixd

Flow states and flow triggers

Last night, Lynne told a sto­ry about a friend who, upon see­ing movie star James Fran­co in the New York sub­way, expe­ri­enced a feel­ing of ecsta­t­ic clar­i­ty, of time slow­ing down. I don't recall if Csik­szent­mi­ha­lyi cov­ers celebri­ty sight­ings in Flow, but this sounds like a state of flow to me. Wikipedia sums up the flow con­cept as "a men­tal state of oper­a­tion in which the per­son is ful­ly immersed in what he or she is doing by a feel­ing of ener­gized focus, full involve­ment, and suc­cess in the process of the activ­i­ty."Bill DeR­ouchey recent­ly men­tioned the ingre­di­ents that, for him, trig­ger a state of flow: "Bri­an Eno [ed: I'm guess­ing his music here, rather than, say, see­ing him on the sub­way], Koy­aanisqat­si sound­track, iso­la­tion, old rocksteady/ska and (yes) the LOTR tril­o­gy." There was an ensu­ing #flow­state dis­cus­sion on Twitter.David Halberstam's book about the late 70's Port­land Trail­blaz­ers, The Breaks of the Game, con­tains a nice descrip­tion of for­mer Blaz­er Bill Walton's pre-game ritual:

[Wal­ton] loved the day of a game, par­tic­u­lar­ly an impor­tant game. It was a time which belonged com­plete­ly to him, a time pure in its pur­pose. On the day itself, he did not ana­lyze the game, he had done that the night before, thought about the team and the play­er he was going against in the most clin­i­cal way pos­si­ble. The night before was the ana­lyt­i­cal time. The day of the game was dif­fer­ent, it was an emo­tion­al time. He always took a nap on the day of a game, wak­ing up two and a half hours before the game … This was the time in which he felt the rhythm and tem­po of the game, almost like feel­ing a dance of his own. He played his own music, from the Grate­ful Dead … and the music helped, it flowed through him and he thought about the tem­po he want­ed to set and how he could move. He would sit in his home or his hotel room in those hours and actu­al­ly see the game and feel the move­ment of it. Some­times he did it with such accu­ra­cy that a few hours lat­er when he was on the court and the same play­ers made the same moves, it was easy for him because he had already seen it all, had made that move or blocked that shot. He loved that time, he had it all to him­self, he was absorbed in his feel for basketball.

An ingre­di­ent to Walton's secret sauce: The Grate­ful Dead. In the same jam fam­i­ly, I would say, as Bill's Phillip Glass go-to, Koyaanisqatsi.All of which of course made me think of my own flow­state trig­gers. The more I think about it, though, my most reli­able trig­ger is run­ning, but a glass of water and the Base­ball Ency­clo­pe­dia also can do the trick. Music is not as essen­tial to me; some­times silence is bet­ter, some­times I need some Ani­mal Col­lec­tive. For Rev­erend Green is pret­ty reliable.

lit reviews

Haruki Murakami / The act of passing through

I've always loved Haru­ki Muraka­mi. I share his tastes in music — Miles Davis, the Rolling Stones — and I'm eas­i­ly tak­en in by his smoky bars, rainy nights, noir pac­ing, puz­zling plot twists, and spare, reserved prose. His books are filled with cool, crisply imag­ined sit­u­a­tions that are eeri­ly lay­ered with shad­ows and mys­tery, and that shift sub­tly between real­i­ty and sur­re­al­i­ty, between the nat­ur­al and the super­nat­ur­al. Recent­ly, it was revealed that he is a run­ner, like me, when he released a book of rumi­na­tions on run­ning and its effects on his life and writ­ing. It's called What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning, and it is eas­i­ly in my per­son­al tops of the pops for 2008.There was some­thing about his writ­ing that struck a deep chord with me, but the nature of it was not revealed until he described a spe­cif­ic moment of "pass­ing through" dur­ing an ultra-marathon. Peo­ple talk about "hit­ting the wall," but, in my expe­ri­ence, run­ning is about hit­ting many walls, and some­how emerg­ing on the oth­er side.

… Around the 47th mile I felt like I'd passed through some­thing. That's what it felt like. Passed through is the only way I can express it. Like my body has passed clean through a stone wall. At what exact point I felt like I'd made it through, I can't recall, but sud­den­ly I noticed I was on the oth­er side. I don't know about the log­ic or the process or the method involved — I was sim­ply con­vinced of the real­i­ty that I'd passed through.

Once I read that, I start­ed to remem­ber oth­er moments in Muraka­mi books, moments that all of a sud­den seemed to spring from his run­ning expe­ri­ence. For instance, there's a scene in The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle when Boku descends into a well to try to pass through its stone wall to find his miss­ing wife, Kumiko, in a room on the oth­er side of the wall:

I try to sep­a­rate from myself … I try to get out of the clum­sy flesh of mine, which is crouch­ing here in the dark. Now I am noth­ing but a vacant house, an aban­doned well. I try to go out­side, to change vehi­cles, to leap from one real­i­ty to anoth­er that moves at a dif­fer­ent speed. Now a sin­gle wall is the only thing sep­a­rat­ing me from the strange room. I ought to be able to pass through that wall. I should be able to do that with my own strength and with the pow­er of deep dark­ness in here.

Lat­er, he breaks through.

All of a sud­den, I was asleep, as if I had been walk­ing down a cor­ri­dor with noth­ing par­tic­u­lar on my mind when, with­out warn­ing, I was dragged into an unknown room. How long this thick, mud­like stu­por enveloped me I had no idea. It couldn't have been very long. It might have been just a moment. But when some kind of pres­ence brought me back to con­scious­ness, I knew I was in anoth­er darkness.

That sense of being changed "with­out warn­ing" is so rec­og­niz­able; I feel like I've been on long runs in which I'm trans­port­ed sud­den­ly, through time, and dropped some­where else. And the part about "anoth­er dark­ness" remind­ed me of After Dark, when Eri Asai has some­how passed from an actu­al bed to a bed on a TV screen that faces the actu­al bed, a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in which the rules were some­how total­ly different: 

In the bed in that oth­er world, Eri con­tin­ues sleep­ing sound­ly, as she did when she was in this room — just as beau­ti­ful­ly, just as deeply. She is not aware that some hand has car­ried her (or per­haps we should say her body) into the TV screen. The blind­ing glare of the ceiling's flu­o­res­cent lamps does not pen­e­trate to the bot­tom of the sea trench in which she sleeps.

All of these make more sense now. It's all about break­ing through, about tran­scend­ing some­thing that is both phys­i­cal and men­tal, even spir­i­tu­al. I also loved Murakami's run­ning mantra: "I'm not a human. I'm a piece of machin­ery. I don't need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead." It remind­ed me of my own mantra, which is the final verse of John­ny Cash's Fol­som Prison Blues:

Well, if they freed me from this prison,If that rail­road train was mine,I bet I'd move it on a little,Farther down the line,Far from Fol­som Prison,That's where I want to stay,And I'd let that lone­some whistle,Blow my Blues away. 

Run­ning: It's all about pain, machines, escape, and break­ing through walls.