When I was in high school I was determined to be the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. These were depression days, and that was the only quick way I knew to a million dollars. I was a big boy, and in some amateur bouts in high school, I had won with ease. Visions of what I would have in just a few short years lured me on. Yet, I realized vaguely that I had not had very much competition and that I probably needed some expert coaching before becoming the “logical contender.”
When a wiry little man moved in next door, and I got a look at his face, I felt my needed help was at hand. I ran out to help him move in, and the first question I asked him was, “Are you a fighter?” He kind of grinned and said, “It does show, doesn’t it, son? Yes, I’ve had seventy or eighty pro bouts.”
I said, “I’m a fighter!” He looked at me and said, “Well, you’re big enough.” I continued, “I haven’t had any real instruction, though. Could you give me a few pointers? I’ve won all my bouts so far.” After a moment’s hesitation, he replied, “Well, okay. Come on over to my garage one of these days.”
I did not wait for one of these days. I was over that afternoon. He smiled a little at my eagerness but finally managed to locate some big sparring gloves. He weighed about 120 to 125 pounds; I came close to 190. I stripped off my shirt and said, “I kind of outweigh you a little, don’t I?” He didn’t reply to that, but as he laced his gloves, he said, “Now, son, I fight from instinct. I can’t think before I hit you. If I see an opening I’ll nail you. I want you to understand that if I hit you a little harder than you think I ought to, I’m not doing it on purpose.” I said, “Oh, sure, I’ll take it easy on you, too.” He looked up at me, and he didn’t smile. He just said, “Don’t worry about it, son.”
The rest of the story is merely pitiful. I didn’t touch him—I didn’t touch him. Suddenly, after about a minute, when I was obviously wide open and didn’t realize it, he hit me on the point of the chin. His huge sparring glove felt as if it had an iron bar in it. I went down like a sack of meal. I was not quite knocked out, but I was pretty dazed. As my head cleared and I looked up, he was taking off his gloves. I jumped up and said, “Oh, come on! I know the difference between an amateur and a pro, now, but you can help me.” He kept shaking his head and taking off his gloves. The vision of a million dollars began to fade. Almost in a panic I reached for him and asked, “Won’t you help me?” He shook himself free.
Just then a bright young fly came winging by. He reached out and captured it. He said, “Now, son, you grab the next fly.” A moment or so later a senile old fly came within range, and I made a couple of passes at it. I didn’t come close to grabbing it. He said, “That’s what’s wrong with you, son. Your reflexes aren’t fast enough. They never will be. There’s nothing you can do about that, boy. You’re kinda tall; have you ever thought of playing basketball?”
I stumbled home, my whole world crashing about me. My mother was ill in bed, as she had been a good deal of her life. Actually, it was the last summer she lived. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I went in and told her what had happened. I said, “Why did it have to be this way for me? Why aren’t my reflexes faster?” As I went on complaining about this, I guess my mother got a little tired of it. She was in pain, and finally she said, very firmly, “Oh, Bobby, what you have is enough!”
Nothing my mother ever said to me has been so useful. “What you have is enough.” If you feel weak and inadequate, may I insist that what you have is enough, provided that—in the memorable phrase of Henry James—you are “the kind of a person on whom nothing is lost.” You never need be as ignorant as you are today, never as awkward or ill-prepared. You can capitalize on such strengths as you have and move forward positively.
Do not think hopelessly, fruitlessly, of the day when you are going to study, when you are going to read all those good books instead of watching frivolous programs on television. You are living the life you intend to. As Brother Richard L. Evans was fond of saying, “What is going to happen is happening.”
Thought for today: Try getting one.
American members and missionaries often express disapproval of and concern about the eastern partiality for the contemplative life; yet, as a scriptural principle, such contemplation and prayer are prerequisites of revelation from the Lord. David meditated on the law of the Lord day and night (Ps. 1:2); he first considered God’s heavenly creations, then pondered upon the significance of man (Ps. 8:3–4); Nephi was caught away in the Spirit only after he sat pondering in his heart (1 Ne. 1:11). The voice of the Lord commanded Nephi to “get thee into the mountain for prayer,” and when he did, he cried unto the Lord. He did oft go into the mountains where he prayed often. (1 Ne. 18:3.) Out in nature Enos reported that the truths of eternal life sunk deep into his heart (Enos 1:3); Oliver Cowdery was told that he had not understood the wellsprings of inspiration; one must first study things out in his mind (D&C 9:7–8); President Joseph F. Smith received a great vision for the redemption of the dead only after he had spent “many hours pondering over the scriptures and reverting his mind to the writings of the ancients, then were the eyes of his understanding opened, and the Spirit of the Lord began to rest upon him.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 472). Joseph Smith, Jr., prepared his mind through “serious reflection,” through feelings that were deep and often poignant; he “reflected again and again.” “After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer the desire of my heart to God.”
President David O. McKay in a 1967 general conference address emphasized the importance of meditation as an essential feature of worship in the lives of Latter-day Saints:
“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion. In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation.
“Meditation is the language of the soul. Meditation is a form of prayer. We can say prayers without having any spiritual response.
“Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.” (“Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life,” Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80–82.)
The Lord’s revelations teach us that we should repair to our personal Gethsemanes and Sacred Groves, that we should seek quietude on mountain tops. We must take off our shoes; we must feel the presence of God. In a church where reverence for the divine is taught as the highest quality of the human soul, Mormons must learn anew the ineffable value of reflection upon spiritual things. And in this particular at least, we can gain new insights from oriental faiths.
There is one thing in life you can have without working for it—ignorance.
Twin Falls, Idaho