I grew up as a young Australian with a shadow of fear: I couldn't catch. I served reluctantly on the rugby field for ten years (couldn't tackle either) and whenever the ball was kicked off, despite wanton calls of "mine" from others around me, it always seemed to head toward me. I would feverishly grab at it as it bounced off my face or bent back my finger. Always thought this was a problem of co-ordination (which it was) but recently am also considering it also a problem of appetite. The problem being, when I try to catch I try to catch everything, and as I madly stumble to clutch on to all I can I miss the lot. Could it be that a more ordered approach to catching is available.
Drawing, I have discovered, is an excellent tool for achieving this end. The first thing drawing provides is the capacity to perceive. As catching is essentially an action of reception rather than projection, what is required is the capacity not to think but to listen (Latin for listen is obidere: obedience). Drawing encourages listening by reducing what we see down to broad elemental structures and simple approximations. Such simplification provides perfect access to matters of sensitivity and discernment: the capacity to pick and choose what we want to take in. In such a way, if one forgoes their sense of self when catching, the ball just leaps into the hand, like magic.
Moreover, drawing encourages us to maintain an abstract sense of what we see and what we make. The art of drawing lies chiefly in the ability to avoid being literal in one's creative approach, focusing on the shared dynamic between elements rather than particulars. The effect is to cultivate a gentle grasp of the total idea, rather than an obsessive grab at any one part.
This guides our catcher not to focus exclusively on the ball, or the position of the hands, but rather the general idea of the ball meeting with the hands. Gripped instead with the imagination, all we need to do is imagine the point of impact and remain detached, the result being a forgone conclusion of inescapable success. This explains why great catchers love the hard impact of cricket balls or the wobbly slap of a Rugby ball, the point of impact providing a more emphatic interaction, more readily conceived in the imagination (than say the meaningless pap of a tennis ball).
In such a way, learning to detach and gently grasp the issue at hand, one may succeed in combining adverse faculties of attention toward the achievement of a common end.
But perhaps more importantly, for a befuddled Australian, who habitually hides at BBQs when the cricket ball comes out, it teaches us how to catch. How to allow a ball that falls from the greatest heights to be calmly caught in a loving embrace with grace, charm and a touch of dignity.
(image: Black Caps Trent Boult dismisses Australia's Mitch Marsh, caught and bowled in Wellington, Feb 2016 abc.net.au)
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