I would like to take a pause from my usual topics about my travels for some introspective writing about myself. I may have rushed into my writing too fast and failed to create a preface into not just my travels but my life and who I am. Being aware of who you are and how people see you is critical to bearing fruit in life. I think some people are so wrapped up in what’s around them that they miss what’s within them. How we present ourselves to the world is an outlet of expression; self aware individuals use this to their advantage.
I’ve had a lot of time to myself here, which has allowed for plenty of time for meditation and reflection on life behind and ahead of me. When I told everyone that I wanted to study abroad in Germany, there were many who thought I was crazy. Taking some of the most difficult courses of the meteorology requisites in another country and language seemed like a recipe for failure.
After reading the book David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, of whom I’ve read most of his other books, I took on a whole new view of my condition. Gladwell says this of the biblical account, “What the Israelites saw, from high on the ridge, was an intimidating giant. In reality, the very thing that gave the giant his size was also the source of his greatest weakness. There is an important lesson in that for battles with all kinds of giants. The powerful and strong are not always what they seem”. He speaks earlier in the book of how the giant may have suffered from acromegaly – a disease caused by a benigh tumor in the pituary gland (Gladwell 2013). The tumor causes an overproduction of human growth hormone, leading to great size, but at the same time impairing vision. David took advantage of his opponent, who assumed he would partake in the traditional hand-to-hand combat of Gladiator ages. He took his opponent by surprise with the sling, knocking him dead with one shot. Later on in the book he expounds on desirable difficulty, that when those who are faced with what seems like an insurmountable task, overcome against all odds. They are put at advantage over their peers. Gladwell poses the question, “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your. Or would you?”. Gary Cohn, the president and COO of Goldman Sachs is dyslexic; his shortcomings gave him the impetus to get him where his is today. Underdogs possess a subtle and powerful advantage over their foes. I don’t think I’ve seen or talked to a single person who really believed OU would beat Alabama (well besides the boastful Barry Switzer). I was in the middle of reading this book when I found out from my Dad that they had won.
More times than not in football, golf, soccer, or any other sport, pyschology trumps athletic prowess. I heard my Dad talk about how how hard it is to sustain a lead in golf, to keep shooting under par hole after hole. Coming from behind is easier. Earlier this week I was reminded of my youth football days by this post http://bubba11thg.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/the-touchdown-bunny-hop-and-thoughts-on-richard-sherman/. And I then came across something I wrote in middle school about a victory from behind, and the excitement my Bruin White teammates and I shared.
The warm Saturday night sky was illuminated by harsh cones of white light, gleaming off the helmets of the fifth grade YMCA White football squad. The bleachers of the Berryhill High School football arena was sprinkled with cheering moms and their obnoxious cowbells, piercing through the sounds of pads crackling like popcorn. An esoteric sense of urgency hung in the air, like the moisture clinging to the dermis of the gridders. The obese orange orb hovered just at the horizon, poised to drop below it. The wafting scent of barbeque smoking from the concessions area, drawing in spectators like vultures to a carcass. The Bruins had clung to the lead for a half, and presently were tied as the blinking numbers of the scoreboard ticked off the concluding minutes of the fourth quarter. It had come down to one play, as the Berryhill gang had held their red zone. Kirby Schoenthaler came under center with the flashing milliseconds now at hand. As profuse perspiration watered the playing surface, the ball snapped up into the deft hands of the main man. Hitching towards the pocket, the ball was released, spiraling towards the lanky tight-end Trevor Maul. Beckoning for the ball, his gloved appendages snatched the ball out of mid-air before being stymied in the in zone by the opposing outfit. Then, with a cacophonous uproar came the entire team, rushing the in zone to congratulate and celebrate the hero of the game. This victory by close margin will be remembered by every young man a part of that infamous troupe.
Though I wasn’t the best football player, I’ve always had a knack for writing; it is probably the loudest way I express myself. The German youth also like writing, but their writing utensil of choice comes in a can. There seems to be a lot of pent up angst against the ‘system’ here, and teenagers find it expedient to release this in the form of graffiti, tagging any and every blank piece of real estate they can find. From the red A (the universal symbol for anarchy), wall murals underneath overpasses, and most famously on the remaining section of the Berlin wall left standing as a memorial to a divided past.
The typical connotations of graffiti in the US is that of urban blight. Quite the opposite here, to the point of social acceptablitiy and invetiablility. I see it as a mark of virility and of a blossoming new culture recently reunited. I fit right in with their obsessive love of anything relating to the 80’s or 90’s… they can’t get enough of the music and fashion of that era. Here, the predecessors to the electronic music that has become so popular as of late was born. I’ve heard it said that German techno music comes from the marriage of engineering and philosophy. I don’t know what that means, but maybe one day I’ll find out.