Monday, September 20, 2010

Two Looks At Aging

Well, actually the two books I've read recently are not actually about aging. One is about surfing; the other is about baseball. Yet a closer look at both books indicates there is a common thread of how do we deal with getting older.

First, the book about surfing. Kook has the author, Peter Heller, telling us about a midlife decision he makes to become something more than a beginner surfer. He and his significant other decide to make a trip along the Mexican coast that would be a way to do that. Heller is an excellent author, one who takes travel and turns it into interesting ways of describing the world. It is clear that he truly connects with the ocean; it is a deeply felt spiritual connection, although he doesn't use that word. He is concerned about the ways that climate change and human interaction are causing harm to the seas and their ecosystem.

Through all this we learn about surfing, probably far more than I really have ever thought about learning. We do, also, see a man struggling with midlife, but attempting to do it in a positive, healthy, forward-looking way. The book succeeds on many levels, giving us insight not just into the ecosystem, but the subculture of surfers and how they interact with each other. And, by extension, how we interact with those we love and who become our significant others.

The second book, The Game From Where I Stand, has Doug Glanville, former major league baseball player, taking us through his pro career. For a baseball fan, the book gives color and insight to much of what we already see on the field by taking us back into the dugout, clubhouse, hotels, and other places where major league baseball players live on a day-to-day basis. Glanville is a rarity among major league baseball players in that he is a graduate of an Ivy League college, Penn, with an engineering degree. He has a literate yet down-home style to his writing that engages us. He does not shy away from his opinions, and the chapter on the integrity of baseball takes us into the steroid era and what he feels it has done to baseball. That chapter alone is worth the read.

But in the end it is also about his leaving baseball, as all pros must do, when they're still relatively young. The poignancy of his closing chapter on the end of his career shows that no matter what career we choose, a day comes when we are no longer engaged in it as we once were. In that chapter he also talks about the family aspect of baseball teams. As an old Phillis Phan myself, his description of his Phillie Phanaticism rang true.

Overall, both books are also about love. Heller, in Kook, is more obvious as part of his journey includes his discovery of love in a relationship as well as with the sea. Glanville may not have the same depth of love toward his career that Heller has toward his surfing and the ocean, but he does baseball and major league baseball players a great service with his care and support for the game and his love for his family.

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