So today I was having a conversation about fighting, boxing specifically, a conversation that was about technique and concepts. This was after coaching a man who has other talents, he has had fights but is also a musician. So he as a person is aware of wider concepts outside of the direct language and methodology of understanding. He appreciates the indirect, how one can learn from moments that at first seem bland, mundane. Irrelevant but can in time become apparent. Ah ha, we sometimes call it.
I mentioned four fights. For me attached to these fights are the memories of when I first watched each. My own personal recording. Someone watching it on videotape, separated by the distance of both time and geography. For me inside of that moment there was an attachment, unique like the smell of a rose or a poster for a movie that’s coming out, timestamps that help record the memory in our minds.
You can also attach these selfish stamps to concepts which help familiarise motion, actions, thoughts helping them become related to us they become relatable. And soon such intimacy is assumed. We then in turn make it about us.
As I was having this conversation, three people went past. A man, woman and a baby in a pram. The man was on his phone looking at the screen completely absorbed by whatever he was looking at, he was fat, the modern gooey shape of humanity that now exists. The masculine form of before, lost as comfort threw itself across a window of voyeurism. What drooled down formed the shape of what we now call male.
In front of him was an equally proportioned woman, pushing the child in a pram. I assume it to be their child. The fruits of their union. The woman was crying. I did not say anything because I was talking to someone else about boxing but I remember noting the incident selfishly because I thought I could turn this moment into what I’m doing right now. Extrapolating her sorrow, to have offered a shoulder would be creepy, to ignore her polite, to observe her unusual and to do what I am now doing, is apparent.
Her tears were not from abuse, they were those of a prisoner. She was trapped. Miserable. The worse sort of prison, she was aware and yet she lacked any comprehension of what outside was like. She had been born into such a prison. As she pushed her child, while her man towed along, obliviously past two strangers on a footpath that in her youth she may have run along in innocent joy. She now trudges across in her own personal misery, a personal torment that I am now arrogantly writing about.
In that banality. I was talking to a man about boxing, my own memories attached to the fights I was referencing. Fights I had never fought, I merely observed. All the while another man who has his entire world walking in front of him but for the period that I first observed him, he was absorbed by his phones screen. He was not communicating, he was watching, a digital voyeur. What was inside of the screen seemed more important than the woman and child to his front. Perhaps he had not even noticed that she was crying. I had.
The couple ended up stopping, not far from where I was. The screen man seemed completely disinterested he had no ability to communicate, he wanted to look at the screen to hide inside of it. It called to him. That was his instinct. Perhaps in moments of reflection he would challenge his need to repeatedly return to the screen. Not now however. His shoulders stooped, he shrugged at the woman’s sobbing.
His partner woman, her tears were more apparent as she plead her case. The pair of them standing over their child. He did not check on it. She rolled down awkwardly to make sure that their baby was comfortable, hidden from the cloud covered sun. As she stood, she adjusted the fitness wear over her body, she was uncomfortable with how she looked. Her need to adjust her image was as instinctive as her concern for her child.
She wiped her tears away, her babies father with stooped shoulders and dangling hands, phone inside of one, did not embrace her. He did not comfort her with any words, he had no instinct to check on his child. Instead he returned to the screen of his phone.
And inside the cot on wheels
Is their baby
I went back to talking about training and the trio went on their way. The father at the screen, the mother crying, the baby innocent, locked inside the prison of its parents union, pushed along the road into an uncertain future.
And the man who I was talking to about training perhaps did not even notice that small human moment because it wasn’t a thing, all that mattered was how to throw his left hook.
Here I am writing about it, recording it. Making assumptions that can in some ways condemn my own observations and judgements of others. Inserting narrative and philosophical intrigue.
Maybe after all, their child was ill. The mother worried, active in pushing it along the road. Her partner on his phone, reading about symptoms and treatment. Sunlight, air and rest. If symptoms persist or gets worse, seek medical care.
It is not getting worse, but not improving fast enough. Inside moments where a loved one is in peril, minutes may as well be days. And letting nature take its course is absurd to the demands of civilised medicine. And this man likes Trek. He had a wristwatch, yes that is hip, but this was a made to imitate a ‘communicator’. As in a Star Trek styled communicator, ie “Beem me up Scotty” for you unfortunates that disregard Star Trek, but watch movies about comic books that you likely have never read.
The father is aware of technology and has been raised on the impatience of having a doctor like Leonard McCoy that is decisive and in command. Who has a pill, a device, an answer to instant cure. And then, “Damned it Jim, I’m a doctor, not a miracle man!” McCoy is exemplified in flaws found in humanity, ers of judgement. The imperfect man, the imperfect healer. We are beyond men of moral character and dignity that could admit flaw, owned mistakes.
Perhaps the father is a Voyager fan, a holosuite doctor. Artificial. A stream of digital images of facts and information, data complied by humans. Flawed and imperfect no doubt. The doctor however, leans upon this information, is certain. Seemingly perfect. It is after all, a digital avatar of medical knowledge.
But in those moments, when it is your child, they are ill, you want a miracle. The Lorenzo’s oil. You desperately need a cure. So the father, walking past two dudes talking about Gerry Cooney’s left hook is locked in the quest for knowledge that may save his child. He is seeking the knowledge on his own, despite a human doctor or the medical avatar has told him. The mother crying, worried, desperate and scared. She stops, “Maybe we should take (insert babies name) to the hospital, its been a few hours.”
The decision is suddenly his, he is the captain of the ship, he was never really a Jim Kirk sort of man, he is thinking, ‘what would Janeway say.’ He waits, he is willing to let time elapse,he is accustomed to watching events unfold. Now, he is the hero, the actions are his to undertake. Instead he does nothing. He is the NPC, not the player of his own destiny. The mother, she wants a happy and healthy baby NOW! A baby in her mind should always be safe and happy! Colds and illness, in coming years, broken bones and hearts is all part of the course. But she is a mother. She wants none of that, even though long term she knows it is for the best.
So after their conference, they walk on. I move to my vehicle, waving good bye to the man that I just coached, “make sure to check out his fights against Ron Lyle, Jimmy Young and Ken Norton. Brutal wins. For a moment, Gerry Cooney was one of the greatest heavyweights and his left hook was something else.”
For a moment…
Until he lost to Larry Holmes. Then Gerry Cooney, as far as his boxing career went was ‘damaged’. Losses to two other greats, Michael Spinks and George Foreman. But not “notable” wins. Who am I to declare notable, he beat prizefighters that did their best and had skills, worked hard but according to the determinations of distant voyeurs, fell short. Short of what? Becoming greats. Great. Think about that word. Greatness. These men, Gerry Cooney included fell short of ‘Greatness’.
Greatness is defined by an outsider, strangers, observers, the voyeurs. The man looking on the screen while his baby’s mother cries in front of him, observing others through the lens of distance, time, inexperience, judgement.
And here I am. An observer. Outsider.
Three strangers go past. A man, a woman and child. The woman is crying, the man staring at his screen. Two dudes talking about a left hook and its application in MMA, boxing and street fights. Concepts. Theories. Then I reference Gerry Cooney, a man. A great left hook. And as I do strangers go past, it is a sad scene. I can only record it as an outsider. It is their scene, it is their moment. Whatever made her cry is for her to know, whatever was on his screen is for him to care and the future of that baby is its own destiny.
Human moments. Bland. Banal. But moments, memories, instances. Not ambitious, but living.
Those living, experiencing. The crying woman, the screen man, Gerry Cooney, Larry Holmes, the man I coached and myself, you the outsider.
I imagined a narrative based on my own bias. For the purpose of this piece it became a fact or even a truth, but inside the piece one in many truths. It was just a conversation and an interaction. It was life.
Then again, I could have just made the whole thing up.
Image – Banksy’s “The Banality of the Banality of Evil” 2013