Monday, May 7, 2012

Black dog Monday.

Mark Harris, an American author whom I have written about before, wrote dozens of novels in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. The most notable, or popular, of these books were the four baseball novels he wrote which featured a left-handed pitcher named Henry Wiggen.

These novels, "The South Paw," "Bang the Drum Slowly," "A Ticket for a Seamstitch" and "It Looked Like Forever" follow the 20 year career of Wiggen as he progresses from a rookie hurler for the New York Mammoths to the end of his career as he tries to hang on one more year. Taken as a whole, the four novels are about making your way in the world, succeeding and about slowing down gracefully.

One of the pillars of the novels is a catcher and coach--a wise man who is also a university professor--named Red Traphagen. Traphagen is seasoned when Wiggen is raw. And like me--this I infer from the novels--Traphagen was born old, born serious, born grown up.

One afternoon, Wiggen is on the mound and Traphaggen is behind the plate. Traphagen accidentally catches a pitch with his non-glove hand in the way--a common enough malady for catchers--and he splits his finger open. Traphaggen takes off his mitt, looks at his bleeding finger and declares to one and all "That is sufficient."

Those are his parting words as he hangs up his spikes for the last time.

That is sufficient.

In our business we spend a lot of time, a lot of years dealing with the vicissitudes of the world. We deal with clients made horrid because they are consumed with fear. We deal with agency and holding company infrastructures that seem bent on installing screen doors on submarines. We deal with co-workers who seem more interested in grinding an axe than in putting pencil to paper.

Unlike Traphagen who had his university career to fall back on, we do not get to say "that is sufficient."

We have to put our tools of ignorance back on, crouch once again, and receive the pitch.

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