Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Calvino

Calvino: Hey Stoat, do you think "Field Sense" is acquired by teaching or by practice, or if it's not either of those, is it innate, or what?

The Stoat: O Calvino, there was a time when the Thessalians were famous among the other Hellenes only for their riches and their riding but now, if I am not mistaken, they are equally famous for their...wait, what?

Calvino: Field Sense. You know, that sports thing that Gretsky had, or Magic Johnson, or George Best or whomever. It's the uncanny awareness of an entire chaotic field of play, the ability to know where your teammates and opponents are at all times, and how their positions will change in the next instant. It's how people of lesser purely physical ability are able to excel in competition. I found this article in Wired Magazine that claims that while it is an innate skill that some people have, that it can also be taught.

The Stoat: Ah...well...you have far too good an opinion of me, if you think that I can answer your question. For I literally do not know what...uh...field sense is, and much less whether it is acquired by teaching or not, and...uh...I mean...um...

Calvino: Well, it seems to raise interesting questions about ability, doesn't it? I mean, there are a lot of skills that seem like they are, for some sense of the word, innate, or different. Creative ability, for instance, or virtuoso skill at a musical instrument, level of intelligence, or athletic skill seem like binary things--you have them within you from birth or you don't. Perhaps you never realize your true level of ability because you never, for instance, take up the violin, but we assume that I, being born without some undefinable talent for the violin, would never achieve greatness no matter how long or hard I practiced.

The Stoat: Uh...the soul of man is immortal...and having been born many times and having seen all things that exist...wait, suppose that we call one of your numerous slaves...uh...see how I only question him...now we draw a square in the dirt...and...er....

Calvino: What if in fact there is no line, that these abilities come in a continuum--we think of the indefinable quality as "potential" and that one person has a different potential than the next. But what if the ability to attain such skills is only limited by focus and desire, and that even these things can be learned, or unlearned? Perhaps one man is indeed "born" with more focus or desire for a particular goal than the next, but that there's nothing about the next man that prevents him from developing that desire.

The Stoat: If then...it...uh...is a quality of the soul, and is admitted to be profitable, it must be...wisdom or prudence, since none of the things of the soul are either profitable or hurtful in themselves, so...

Calvino: Thank you Stoat, you are very wise. I have learned much today.

The Stoat: Well, uh...statesmen must have guided states by right opinion...also...truth...and something about fruit...possibly bananas....


fronesis said...

OK, the field sense stuff is very interesting. I don't think I was born with one ounce of 'natural ability' for the game of baseball. But I was playing pepper with my dad from the age of about 3, and by the time I was 14 I was far better than most 14 year-olds. This doesn't mean that I would have ever been able to hit a major league curveball, of course (cf. M. Jordan).

On the other hand, when I took up golf VERY late in life, after having shown no 'natural' capacities in sport, music, or anything else, I do think there was something about the golf swing that came easier to me than it would to most.

Now, more importantly: having The Stoat channel Socrates in the Meno - that is PURE brilliance! How the hell are you so obscenely well-read?

Transient Gadfly said...

Funny story, actually: I went to college, and then...that's pretty much the end of the story.

I'm pretty sure you're the only person who, you know, got this whole thing, so it's perhaps a Phyrric victory.