I have been thinking a lot lately about pure moments.
Moments that are not hampered or tainted or otherwise ruined.
Moments that meet expectations, that inspire the cliche of pure, unadulterated joy.
And I have been thinking about such moments a lot lately because it has been a terrible 18 months for me, personally. Basically since April of 2011 when I started this blog, life has been a long series of bad news and disappointments and failures and hard lessons and bad decisions. I mention that last one because I freely admit that a lot of the bad luck lately has been self induced, but that is neither here nor there at this point.
I have been thinking about pure moments because that is the kind of joy I want to have right now. I want a couple things to break our way and I want to run through the streets with my arms in the air and experience the true pinnacle of ecstasy.
The events and accomplishments in the last 18 months that I thought would bring me such a moment have failed to really deliver in the end: new jobs, graduations: the moments have been happy but there was more a quiet sense of accomplishment instead of true happiness, or there was something else in the background, some other stress, that took away from it.
And that is because pure moments do not exist in real life.
Well, they do, but not in the way I want: I could burn my house down, for instance, that would be a pure moment of destruction, but I am not going to do that.
Pure moments of joy just do not exist in the real world.
With one exception:
They exist in sport, and therefore, vicariously, exist for us, the fans, as well.
If asked to give an example of pure moments, I would invariably point to Michael Bradley’s goal in the 2010 World Cup for the USA against Slovenia.
I didn’t even get to watch it live.
I was at my desk in the office watching the minute by minute on ESPN.com. And then in the 82nd minute: Bradley scored, and I felt this wave of relief and joy wash over me. For 30 seconds, I felt no pain.
And there was Donovan’s goal against Algeria a few days later, that brought not relief but headshakingly poweful JOY. Which for a lot of reasons reminds me of this song, because that is exactly how I felt: “I got troubles, Lord, but not today.”
And more: Arshavin’s goal against Barcelona, for one, and for another, even though I despise Manchester City, Aguero’s goal against QPR last season:
“I’ve never seen so many grown men cry…
…so many grown men cry.”
“You will never see anything like this again: so watch it, drink it in.”
That video sums it all up for me. People living lives of quiet desperation. People living in fucking Manchester. Disappointments and failures and heartbreaks, but for a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon in May: that all went away, and was replaced with joy.
Pure, unadulterated: JOY.
You don’t get that in the real world.
Births of children, falling in love, accomplishing lifelong goals: they all fail to meet expectations.
But a goal in the 90th minute to send your country into the knockout stages of a World Cup: that meets all ones expectations.
Another favorite video to sum it all up for me:
All of the above examples are football related, because no sport delivers pure moments quite like football, but they all do in one way or another: with one notable exception:
Specifically: Test cricket.
In cricket there are big moments: big wickets, triple hundreds, and in one day matches there are super overs and last ball wins.
But in Test cricket, the games march on like life, and when breakthroughs do come, they come more in the form of relief rather than joy. Matches are rarely decided in the final over, and most of the time, the result is known hours and sometimes days before the final ball is bowled.
And when it comes to batsmen hitting landmarks like 100, 200, 300…usually they are so knackered they cannot really react like, Aguero, or Bradley, or Donovan.
And the matches are so long, so complicated, and the tales they weave so full of tunnels and mystery and intricacy, that big wickets and big knocks usually are not guaranteed match winners, or even match savers. You stretch your body and mind to their limits to get through the nervous 90s and achieve that magical plateau of 100: but you only get a minute to think it over and then you have to keep going, because your team needs runs, because it is only day three, and there is still a lot of work to do.
Just ask Eddie Cowan.
His boyhood dream was to hit a century in a test match, and he did it, and he had a few moments to cry and thank the heavens, and then had to go back out and bat again.
And that, right there, is life. Congratulations, you did it, now you should get to bed, because you have work in the morning.
And so while maybe we all watch sport to experience those pure moments that we would not otherwise experience, maybe we all watch Test cricket because it teaches us that life is not like sport, that there are no pure moments, that there is always more work to do, that there is no such thing as unadulterated joy.
That life is just not like that.
But like I said at the beginning, it has been a terrible 18 months. I am sick of attrition and struggle, and while I know it is not possible, I want nothing more than to have one moment in my life where a metaphorical Michael Bradley puts a metaphorical ball in the back of the metaphorical net – a non-sports-related moment that I can react to in the same manner in which I reacted to Arshavin’s winner against Barcelona: buzzing, hugging strangers, forgetting…
A moment where, to borrow from the title of the Man City video above: I win the championship, and everyone goes nuts.
My wife has a new song that really I don’t think is about any of this, but music is open to interpretation, and I like to think the song is not about a person, but instead about a moment, a happening:
“I can only hope that one day, I will be a story you can tell.
A memory back to happiness for when you’re not feelin’ well.”
Because that’s the thing about pure moments: they last forever. And they become like friends. And we can call them up when we need them, and chat, and remember what it was like when for a few brief shining moments everything was going to be okay.