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Out of My League

Out of My League

    She pedaled the stationary bicycle in the exercise room at 80 revolutions per minute at level 8 (there are 12 levels) of difficulty.  She stayed at it for twenty minutes, never letting up.  I was incredulous and envious.  The best I could manage on that bike was five minutes at 80 rpm at level 7, after which I collapsed on the mat and coughed for the rest of the day.  My envy was not abated with the thought I was twice her age.  She was, simply put, in the Majors while I labored in the Pony League.

    This humbling episode stirred up memories of other moments when I realized, competitive spirit that I am, that I was badly outclassed.  Like that chess match in Miss Whitfield's 8th Grade homeroom when Steve Kaplan foolmated me in less time than it takes to say, "Gotcha!"  Or that sunlit afternoon in September in Middlebury VT when their defensive end picked me up with his block and hurled me to the ground like I was a washrag.  And that evening at the Floral Park UMC, at a workshop led by English composer of sacred music, John Rutter, when I sat among 400 choristers, everyone of whom could sing a lot better than me.  More recently, I can cite the symposium at my 50th college reunion when classmates with a world of worldly experience discussed the geopolitical realities of our world, and I was reduced to total silence, inhibited by my ignorance. 

    There's a young man in our house who shares some temperamental attitudes with an old man in our house.  They also share the same name.  The younger Bob peppers the older one with questions about best, fastest, smartest, most expensive, and biggest, usually about athletes, but sometimes about presidents.  He can be coldly realistic about his own abilities with everyone except his brother.  He hankers to be number 1.  I honor that impulse.  He comes by it genetically.  But I've tried to caution him with my own hard won wisdom that there is always someone smarter, faster, bigger, stronger, quicker, and richer.  I have yet to add to my lectures some other comparisons, like kinder, more loyal, sweeter, and more generous. Maybe next time.

    Of course, a lot depends on with whom one compares oneself.  There's another cyclist who frequents the exercise room. He's a man about my age, only he has plenty of hair on top of his head, wavy gray and carefully coiffed.  He pedals for ten or fifteen minutes, but at level 1 at 50 rpms.  I like to watch him.  He makes me feel so trim and strong and athletic.  Like the year in high school when I played center on the church basketball team and was the leading rebounder: hearing me brag a contemporary asked, "Was it a Japanese league?"  (Please don't PC me on this remembered taunt).   

    Somewhere out of the blue, a line comes to me, from a fellow who was sick and tired of being compared unfavorably with other saints.  He states: "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court; it is the Lord who judges me."  In more candid moments the speaker, St. Paul, demonstrates a regrettable tendency, however, to do just the opposite, show how troubled he is by criticism bordering on ridicule.  Still, his brave face is admirable.  More, it's an example worth following.   It's an echo of some red letter words, "Judge not, lest you be judged."  Which may have as much to do with the unhappy consequences inside the judger as from brickbats aimed at him from the outside.  In other words, stop measuring yourself, old cyclist, by either the Amazon or the hairy septuagenarian.  Measure yourself by yourself in the light from the face of God.    

    I shall try.  But, discretion being the better part of valor, maybe I'll just shift the hour of exercise to a time less compatible to those who cycle at speeds over distances leaving me in the dust.                                         

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