Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What's the Point of Balancing on a 4-inch Beam?

This is the question my brother asked in a recent Twitter and Blog Entry. I started to leave a comment on his blog just now, responding to his entry, but decided my comment was getting too long. So I figured I'd post it here instead. I invite you to read his entry first: Board Balancer.

I don't really have a clear articulation about the relationship between art and sports, but I do think there is one. And I'm not sure that "producing" a "product" of some kind is necessarily the dividing line. There are too many arts where nothing remains after it is performed.

I'm aware, in particular, of the sand mandala in the Buddhist tradition in which an artist creates a most beautiful work of art with sand--and then destroys it.

The thing is, I really do relate to Cyen's rant--what's it all for, basically? But I feel really hesitant to go with it all the way. Maybe especially because he mentions an Olympic sport which is different in my opinion from professional sports (a bloated business for sure!).

But I see the Olympics and gymnastics in particular, say, as a celebration of what the human body is capable of doing. More than that, though, it's also a celebration of the human imagination caught up with the human body. A gymnast on the balance beam doesn't merely stand on a four-inch beam, but she also bends, and leaps, and flips, and gracefully traverses that beam in every way she can imagine.

Most people trudge through life never imagining anything can be different than it already is. But a gymnast takes the same human body and puts it in astounding positions on the thinnest slip of wood.

That makes me want to ask: what else is possible?

Back in the 80s, Joseph Campbell urged folks to follow their bliss. I imagine, for whatever reason, that a gymnast's bliss is balancing on a four-inch beam. It's not my bliss, but I celebrate that it is her's. I'm hopeful that if we were all given the chance to follow our bliss, then the world would be a more beautiful place.

It's a totally non-utilitarian view of things, I admit, dear Brother of mine. :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The United States Post Office is a Joy to Work With

(1) The hold on our mail delivery for vacation was supposed to end as of yesterday, but no mail was delivered. (Including an express package for D's work.)

(2) I call 1-800-ASK-USPS this morning to inquire. First time I call, I receive an automated message that the phone number is invalid. I double check the number I dialed and it is accurate.

(3) I call 1-800-ASK-USPS again and I am connected this time. After speaking various commands into the phone, I am connected to a human. (I think.) She tells me that if the mail wasn't delivered yesterday, it would not automatically come today. I can pick up my mail, with a photo ID at my local post office, or schedule a new delivery for this Saturday. We are waiting on bills that must be paid, so would like to pick up the mail today. We live in a fairly Big City, so I ask her which post office would be holding my mail. She types something into her computer, but does not come up with any answer. Instead she gives me the phone number for our Main Post Office.

(4) I call the Main City Post Office. The phone rings at least 40 times before someone answers. I explain the situation to the person who answers the phone. She asks for my zip code, then tells me my mail will be at Neighboring City Post Office. This seems very odd to me. (Would it seem odd to you?) So I clarify (politely): "Even though we're located in fairly Big City, our mail is delivered to Neighboring City?" She answers in the affirmative with as much impatience and exasperation as she can muster. She does not give me a phone number to connect with Neighboring City Post Office.

(5) I go back to usps.com to find phone number for Neighboring City Post Office. They list only 1-800-ASK-USPS.

(6) I call 1-800-ASK-USPS again. It rings twice then goes into a black hole of nothingness.

(7) I call 1-800-ASK-USPS again. I answer various voice commands, and realize there is one that will tell me which local post office is mine. I speak the magic words just to see if it matches what the woman just told me. It doesn't. I cajole the automated system to tell me the phone number of this post office.

(8) I check the usps.com website and notice that this latest post office is not even listed on their site. I decide to go back to Neighboring City suggestion. I notice that if you click on one more link ("more info") then rather than listing 1-800-ASK-USPS as the contact phone number, you are given the local post office phone number. WHY?!

(9) I call Neighboring City Post Office. The belligerence of this Customer Service Representative far outpaces the last human I spoke with. Without getting any address information from me, this person gives me a phone number for my Postal Supervisor and tells me to contact him to have my mail delivered. I tell her we would like to pick up the mail at this point, and can she tell if our mail is being held there. She spews, "This post office has nothing to do with delivering mail." I have no clue what that means. I pause a moment, trying to take in what seemed like a nonsense statement. "Hello?!" She says in a bitter tone. I say, in mock sweetness, "Thank you so much for your wonderful help." And hang up.

(10) I call the Postal Supervisor number. He puts me on hold. Several minutes later he comes back and says, "We don't have any mail here for you at all. I guess the Postal Carrier has it with him already." I clarify, "So the mail ought to be delivered to us today?" He answers, "I guess so."

Ah, the joys of a Bureaucratic Monopoly. I hate the United States Post Office.