Monday, July 9, 2012

Up Against The Ropes

In a recent podcast of The BS report, Bill Simmons interviews comedian Louis CK about his upcoming season of Louie (a show I love). In this interview Louis CK shares that he is an avid boxing fan, to the point of training and sparring himself.

He says there are a lot of parallels between boxing and life (its a great podcast so I recommend you listen to it all) but there's one metaphor he mentions that I can't help holding onto...

being up against the ropes

I've always taken that phrase at popular face value to mean "you're trapped", used interchangeably with "backed into a corner" or "there's no way out"

Starting at about minutes 18 in this interview, Louie begins talking about boxing and he breaks down "against the ropes" in a new way. I won't quote him or try to recreate exactly what he says, instead I'll summarize and tell you what I gather it means for me...

Sometimes there's a point in a fight when fatigue sets in for a boxer - when they can tell their muscles to work but they've been out there so many rounds it just won't compute. At this time they need a break more than anything. Leaning on the ropes doesn't give them full rest but takes some of the load off. It allows them to sit back a bit and pull in some energy.

This is a calculated choice because putting their back to the ropes leaves them vulnerable. They have no where else to go. It means they will have to take more punches and willingly face more pain. But a boxer could lose a fight for fatigue and so its a choice of rest over pain. All of this, so after a short time they can spring back ready to fight anew.

So I'm not sure I have to spell out all the ways this resonates with me but I will... (and I don't hope you're against the ropes but I hope this connects with you too, especially in the sense that I'm speaking clearly here - sometimes I feel jumbled in thought)

When a life circumstance puts you in a position where there is no foreseeable way out you are, as popular phrases say, backed into a corner. And when you are "up against the ropes" like this its almost always perceived as a terrible thing. Even in enlightened Christian circles, people don't handle this position well. I've heard many kind wishes and prayers from people to get me out of this place. Of course. That's nice, because I don't want to be here - but its also telling that no one knows quite what to do with "up against the ropes"

I loved hearing Louis CK explain this reasoning to lean into the ropes. That being stuck in the corner can be okay. Because round after round of fighting does make one weary and sometimes the whole thing can be lost because you're just worn down more than anything. 

I loved hearing this reasoning because sometimes you honestly have to face pain when you're in a dark place and that can be good

I loved hearing this because it brought to mind the verse from Matthew 11 when Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." How often is that depicted as a stained glass window, Jesus seated on a smooth stone with arms outstretched, children nestled beside him, sheep lazy in a grassy field? How often have I pleaded that my rest from all this hurt would look like that church window promise, only to lay awake with ice pick headaches?

But it says nothing in that verse about circumstance, only rest. Maybe that's why we have no comfortable answer for people up against the ropes. We want to control circumstance. We focus on seeing the people we love get out of difficult situations, even when there's no way out (even when - and this might be my whole point - maybe getting out is not the only thing that needs remedied)

I think thats why I like this verse all the more now that I can imagine it in knock down, drag out fight - "Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" and it might continue on to say "you may still get punched in the face while it happens, but you will rest. So that painful time is still good, don't hurry through it. You will think you can't make it but I promise the cords at your back will lift you enough, and when you stand again you'll be able to keep going. In fact, you'll be stronger... now get these sheep out of my boxing ring." ~Jesus (paraphrased)

1 comment:

  1. OMG that was awesome. Now get these sheep out of my boxing ring!

    I love boxing and I think maybe one of the reasons I do is because it's a metaphor for so many things that we deal with, even as athletes that have nothing to do with boxing.