Zen in the Art of Frisbee

            There are moments in life—we’ve all felt them—when time stops, particles freeze, all that remains is action. They are simultaneously meditative, effortless, and rare. Often these moments flower from decades of repetitive practice, like an archer letting loose at a target. Other times, they explode from a point of intense focus—the hard pit of a ripe and mushy peach. Only once or twice in a lucky lifetime do these Zen moments arise instinctually, from the unrequited emotions of deep and passionate love.   
            If this sounds like the beginning of a love story, that’s because it is, but the actors in this romantic comedy are not what you might imagine. They are not a desperate man and an irresistible woman. Neither are they a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a boy, or a girl and a man, or any other possible combination of female and male humans that can be imagined. Instead, this is a love story about a boy and his favorite toy. This is a love story about a Frisbee. 
            One out of a million throws is truly perfect. Has the boy ever performed a perfect throw? Maybe not, but when the disc glides clean and straight, without hint of wobble or curve, the boy feels a miniature explosion in his heart, like the smell of fresh bread being cut. He wants to feel the explosion over and over again, so he keeps throwing the disc back and forth to his partner. Back and forth, back and forth the disc flies until the boy’s arm is tired out and his heart is gleaming like a Christmas light on a wintery eve.
            The running and jumping and catching are fun too, but it’s mostly about the disc flying; the boy flies with it. He flies over fresh cut grass through heavy air laden with moisture. He flies through parking lots and over main drags, nearly striking cars (Oh fuck!) along the way and occasionally scuffing the pavement, which digs better grip into the rim. He even flies over grey sand beaches and lands in the ocean and is sucked into the undertow and lost in the foam. He flies into college where he is thrown back and forth by competitors trying to score points. He flies more beautifully and further than he has ever flown before. He learns to fly upside down and sideways. He learns to dive bomb, bank, rise, push. Soon, he grows tired of flying between competitors. He just wants to fly for the sake of it. He even stops flying for a while and this is a difficult moment in his life. He wobbles and cakes and is affected by the wind. Flying is not so easy anymore.
            Things happen and the disc sits dusty in the boy’s closet for a while. The boy misses the disc but he is busy and confused. He is hurt. There are other things to do: more important things. He wants to feel better but he doesn’t really know how. He wants to find his own way in life. It’s hard finding your own way in life. Why can’t it be easier finding your way in life? The disc waits patiently for his return. It knows he will be back. Love that strong doesn’t ever go away. It lingers for life.
            And the boy does return. Is he a man yet? Uncertain. But he isn’t hurt anymore and he rediscovers flying; he studies and practices his throws diligently. Observers comment on his non-traditional release, the motion formed by years of bad habit grooves left in his muscles. Observers cannot argue with the result; the disc flies perfectly straight, a round ball line drive off healthy bat fat. Targets haven’t a chance. Different discs curve different ways. A streak of plastic color through the moisture-laden air looks beautiful no matter whether it is red or yellow or white. He is a monk worshiping those colors, trying to perfect them. Each flight is like the imagined destiny of a character in a forgotten dream. Do Frisbees have a soul? he wonders.
            One dense and calm afternoon the boy and his friend walk to a nearby field. They are old friends and have been throwing back and forth, back and forth, for many years. The disc they share is worn rough from concrete slides; it’s stained slightly green from cut grass. They begin throwing. Back and forth, back and forth. The setting sun leaves brush strokes of color in the sky like distant melodies being played on a xylophone. Their throwing rhythm meshes imperceptibly with the darkening hue. The boy catches the spinning disk in his palm. Everything feels right. He grips it tightly between his thumb and pointer, cocks his wrist, brings back his arm like a catapult, and plants his bare feet squarely. Then, with oceanic fluidity and volcanic power, he rotates his hips and torso. His shoulder, elbow and wrist follow intuitively, and he releases the disc at the apex of his motion, sending it flying with alarming speed towards his distant partner. The boy has thoughts of nothing else. He watches the disc fly through particles of frozen dust. Time hangs in constant pressure, like a glacier. The boy feels like he could live forever in this moment and maybe he does in some hidden depth of his soul. Just like the Frisbee, he glides effortlessly through the air, until he hits his partner’s palm and snap! the trance is broken.
            There are moments in life—we’ve all felt them—when moments become lifetimes and lifetimes become histories. These moments are not as rare as you might think. They are just quick and silent; they are hard to catch. Like the colors of a rainbow, we know they are there but we have a hard time grasping onto them. They are solid and invisible at once. Sometimes remembering can bring them into focus. Other times, a sound or smell will smash us into flashbacks that seem more potent than the experience itself. Either way, I suggest you watch out for them. Because they are there, believe me, on the surface of the fresh cut grass. 


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