*Note: since this post is about neutrality, it’s ok that it is no longer timely
I’ll never forget the day that my father broke the bad news, “The only sure thing in life is that there’s no such thing as a sure thing.” I was eight, and I copied the phrase directly into my journal, giving proper citation and processing how this bit of insight might affect my life.
However, nearly 20 years later, I’ve finally found one thing I can be sure of — that I hate the Yankees and will root for any team that plays against them, in any game, in any series.
So, even though I was sure that it would take me at least a few years before I started feeling any kind of affinity for a San Francisco sports team, as the MLB playoffs rolled along, the possibility entered my mind that it was going to be a Yankees/Giants World Series. I felt my whole being flush with the heat of pure hatred.
The imaginary series unfolded inside my head, and in my brief daydream, I was rooting hard for the Giants. Being a young lady prone to fast and hopeless devotion, by the time the Yankees lost, I had already boarded the Giants’ train, and it had left the station.
Very quickly, it become important to me that the Giants win because it was going to mean something. The Giants were a team that had moved from New York to San Francisco and if they won their first World Series not 6 months after I moved here–well, it would obviously be auspicious.
Given the timing of games, my limited social circle and my inability to figure out how to turn on the 55″ screen TV at our house, I spent a lot of time checking scores on Yahoo Sports. And of course, Game Five happened in Texas while I was still at work.
As I rode my bike down the street on the way to yoga, I could hear the bars erupting as the game drew to a close. I texted my roommate for score updates. 3 outs left! He said.
While I was in the bathroom before class, the noise of car horns erupted. I walked calmly out back into the studio, thinking that I finally understood what it meant to nourish your body with a deep breath.
“The Giants won.” I told my yoga teacher who I knew didn’t really care at all. My pinched lips held back a smile. I knew if I really cared I wouldn’t be at yoga. But when he started class, and said, plainly, “The Giants Won,” I was thrilled. He repeated throughout class, and every time, I smiled bigger. This was happiness, I thought. This was being in the moment, in the city, on the planet.
The car horns continued throughout class– and to me, they sounded like a symphony. They blended with the music and brought energy into the room, They united our practice, and the joy of the city. Every new cacophony was a reminder of victory.
It was towards the end of class it suddenly occurred to me that these horns must be specifically coordinated to sound like music, because they didn’t sound like regular horns.
Then I listened, and I realized they did sound like regular horns. They were making the exact same abrasive, horrible noise as angry cars stuck in traffic. The tempo and tone were the same. The only difference was that I liked the reason why people were honking their horns, thus, I liked the sound of the horns.
I recalled something I’d see posted on one of my old yoga teacher’s Facebook page the week before, “all experiences are neutral until we add our stories, positive or negative.” I hadn’t had a clue what that meant, or how it could possibly be true, until that moment.
Horns were only a negative sound because of the story we’d attached. With a new story, there was nothing objectively wrong with them. In fact, instead of representing frustration, congestion and alienation they represented success, freedom and unity.
What if all things in life were really as neutral as the sound of those horns, and what if when we heard “horns” beeping in traffic, we could remember that the experience could be totally flipped on its head?
I think this was so crystal-clear for me, because, let’s be honest, I’m not really a Giants fan and I could be really objective about the whole thing. Sports are awesome because they let us be passionate, and as I walked down the street with my friends after class, shouting at cars and waving my arms in the air and howling, I was definitely conscious of how much fun it was to just have fun.
(Ask me if hating the Yankees is just an “excuse to be passionate” and I will tell you no, it is a noble mission to make sure the entire evil franchise ends up rotting in Hell…or New Jersey).
Still, I think it was a good lesson in how we truly craft our own experiences. Nothing, not even tangible or audible experiences, just “happens” to us. For example, the other day a friend of mine was upset because she saw a girl doing handstand in the middle of the room, and my friend can’t do handstand at all.
“Just talk yourself out of it,” I told her. “What if it was that the other girl could drink a whole can of Campbell’s Soup, and you couldn’t? Just pretend handstand is Cream of Tomato, and move on.”
Then, it all sort of came first circle when after a series of Facebook jokes about the Giants winning, someone posted on my wall, “When will you give up and admit that SF is the best, or at least better than NYC?”
It was two days before I was headed home again, and I started to think maybe I should write a list of why SF is better than NYC. Then I realized, no such list exists. I am much happier here. But is there any objective reason why San Francisco is better than New York? I don’t think there is. Everything is neutral until we tell a story. We live in the Best Possible World when we give ourselves permission to experience the Best Possible World.