Sunday, July 11, 2010

Of Sports and History

"To achieve proficiency in basketball, baseball, or even bridge, you have to know the rules og the game, and you have to practice. But these rules, together with what your coach can teach you about applying them, are nothing more than a distillation of accumulated experience: they serve the same function that Machiavelli intended The Prince to serve for Lorenzo de'Medici. They're generalizations: compressions and distillations of the past in order to make it usable in the future.

Each game you play, however, will have its own characteristics: the skill of your opponent, the adequacy of your own preparation, the circumstances in which the competition takes place. No competent coach would lay out a plan to be mechanically followed throughout the game: you have to leave a lot to the discretion - and the good judgment - of the individual players. The fascination of sports resides in the intersection of the general with the particular. The practice of life is much the same.

Studying the past is no sure guide to predicting the future. What it does do, though, is to prepare you for the future by expanding experience, so that you can increase your skills, your stamina - and, if all goes well, your wisdom."

-John Lewis Gaddis

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