The Tao of Catch:
A Query

John Gilgun
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I hesitate to ask this question. I am afraid of starting a flame war. But if I don't ask it, I'm guilty of self-censorship. So I'm going to ask: "Why--'catch?'"
I was eating at my kitchen table yesterday. The gray day had turned golden and lovely. There were long evening shadows under the spruce trees beyond the deck. I became aware of a soft plop-plop sound. Plop-plop. Plop-plop. It slowly sank in that it was May, it was evening and the boys who live across the road were playing catch. I heard myself say to myself, because sometimes it just comes out of me, "That is the most boring activity in the world. Why do boys do it?" The sound of my own voice startled me into conscious awareness and I realized I had been asking myself this question since I first observed the activity when I was three or four years old.
Is it some kind of communication ritual? And if so, what gets communicated? Is it a bonding mechanism? If it is, it is also to exclude others (like the kid who stared blankly at the ball going back and forth others (like the kid who stared blankly at the ball going back and forth a half century ago wondering, "Why?") Does something pass through the person's mind as he tosses the ball back and forth? Is there a fantasy in the mind perhaps involving some idol warming up before a major league game? Or is the mind blank? From observing the expressions on the faces of people tossing the ball back and forth, I'd guess blank. But does anyone know? Can anyone tell me?
When I was ten years old, I was sent to live with an uncle for two weeks so that we could toss a ball back and forth in his suburban yard each evening after he came home from work. It was to "make a real boy of me." I did it each evening from a mildly amused mental distance, watching us in my mind do something so totally meaningless it was almost transcendental--like sitting Zazen or reciting the rosary with beads. My uncle finally gave it up and sent me home to my parents. Whatever magical thing was supposed to happen, it didn't happen. I couldn't even pretend there was any point in tossing a ball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth while the minutes of my life ticked away.
Query: Why do people do it?

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