A wonderful side effect of a boxing gym, is the wide range of personalities and thinkers that attend. The community that you immediately have access to. Luckily, many of these folks share ideas with me and send me articles and links to cool things.
Recently, I received an article by David Brook, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times. His article, Read Buber, Not the Polls! really resonated with me.
Martin Buber was a 20th century philosopher. One of his most famous books I and Thou seems to me to be a perfect description of boxing in the form of relationship.
To get you in the mind frame that I am thinking from, here is an excerpt from Brook’s article in the NY Times:
I-It relationships come in two varieties.
Some are strictly utilitarian. You’re exchanging information in order to do some practical thing, like getting your taxes done.
But other I-It relationships are truncated versions of what should be deep relationships. You’re with a friend, colleague, spouse or neighbor, but you’re not really bringing your whole self to that encounter. You’re fearful, closed or withdrawn — objectifying her, talking at her, offering only a shallow piece of yourself and seeing only the shallow piece of her.
I-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are personal, direct, dialogical — nothing is held back. A Thou relationship exists when two or more people are totally immersed in their situation, when deep calls to deep, when they are offering up themselves and embracing the other in some total, unselfconscious way, when they are involved in “mutual animated describing.”
How perfect! Boxing is when two people are completely in the moment in the ring, being vulnerable and wholly focused on their task at hand. Boxing in the ring, on a stage with onlookers, completely entrenched in the battle before them….an I-Thou relationship like none other.
Training is the same way. A boxer’s bravery sits in their ability to feel completely useless. To be able to handle their ineffectiveness and keep an eye on what they want to achieve. To feel motivated to go back to basics after they’ve had success. They have to listen to their trainer when their brains are screaming to do something entirely different. A trainer has to take seriously their position of power and constantly check themselves. What are we asking our boxer to do? Would I be willing to do this? Am I asking this for the betterment of the boxer or myself? And so many other checks and balance kinds of questions. Boxers together and boxers and their trainers are the epitome of I-Thou relationships.
In our social media world, we rarely have to face another person and this makes us a bit immune to taking responsibility for the way we affect one another. We tend to stay entrenched in the I- It relationship. In the ring, however, you punch and get punched and you see immediately your affect and you must take responsibility for your actions. For 3 minutes at a time, the outside world doesn’t exist, it is only you, the other boxer, the ref, your trainers, your fears, desires, expression, creativity and physicality. It is you baring your soul for others to judge.
I wish we all lived our lives like boxers do in the ring. We would all be a heck of a lot more thoughtful, honest, vulnerable and caring. While it’s true, in the ring we commit a physical violence to one another, it is an agreed upon exchange for a period of time that ends with an embrace honoring that we both just traveled into the depths of ourselves and risked life and injury for others to see.
That is pure beauty.