Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hidden, high-scoring gems

Earlier today, Pa was scuttling along near our home after dropping Sonny off at the infant care centre, trying to get in his 15 minutes of exercise (regular readers will note that this hopeful theme will emerge from time to time before fading from view). There's a basketball court along the route, so Pa paused long enough to see what was going on there.

A middle-aged man and a woman - almost certainly husband and wife - were shooting hoops, clad in el-cheapo sneakers and worn attire. They wouldn't have warranted a second look if encountered anywhere, whether in the bus, at the market or in town. But as Pa looked on in mounting amazement, the duo put together a stunning basketball exhibition: They took turns to score from all angles, from different distances and using everything from high lobs to sky hooks and classical-release shots. It was all done at an unhurried pace: These folks weren't doing much more than getting in a bit of physical exertion, from the looks of things - even if the way they were scoring without pause was enough to disrupt Pa's progress and keep him entranced for several minutes.

We haven't a clue, of course, who these people were. But they were certainly hidden away in a quiet residential area of Singapore, surrounded by blocks upon blocks of modest apartments. The encounter brought home the truth that you never know when you are going to stumble upon something of interest, so long as we remain aware of what's going on about us and don't become totally enwrapped in our own private musings.

All of that, of course, ought not be forgotten as we shepherd Sonny - less than a fortnight away from completing his tenth month with us - along his own exploration of the world around him. For now, his wonder and curiosity at everything he comes across is pretty much a salient characteristic. Nothing is so insignificant as to not warrant an inspection; a quiet nook, once spotted, simply cannot be left alone until there has been a crawled-over expedition to scout for surprise treasures. But as the years pile up, there is a danger that we lose that investigative edge; our awareness is dulled as experience silts up a "done-this, seen-that" weariness that can leave us to trudge through life expecting nothing fresh to peek out at us.

That would be a pity. If Sonny shows signs of flagging in that manner, we'll need to be sharp enough to pick it up and attempt some exhortatory reinvigoration. But that probably won't be a problem for some time yet: Curbing excessive curiosity seems more the current worry. Still, Pa hopes he'll see more basketball action as he continues his modest exercise routine, even if he isn't himself inspired to try and sink any baskets. Maybe he'll strike up a conversation some time with that wonder couple: They could be onetime hoops legends who have fallen on hard times and are now relegated to obscurity, their once shining talent now glistening only occasionally at our neighbourhood hard court. Or they could be diamonds-in-the-rough with outstanding ability but no interest in shaping their gift in the direction of fame or money.

It might turn out to be a gem of a conversation - like the many that always surround us, waiting for us to notice them.