A fencing master once ordered his student to drink a cup of tomato juice. “Once you imbibe its contents, tip the glass and report back to me,” he said.
The student, expecting his usual tactical lesson, exits the room to begrudgingly fulfill his fencing master’s request. He drinks a full cup of tomato juice, as dictated and then tips the cup.
“What did you see after tipping the cup and looking inside?” asked the fencing master.
“I only saw the bottom of the cup, of course,” answered the student.
“Then you did not do as I instructed,” the fencing master patiently replied and then promptly ordered him to conduct the same task. Once again the student reported having seen the same bottom of the same cup and once again he was ordered back to the tomato juice.
Twenty-six cups later, the student returns bloated from the heavy fluids and nauseas from the heavy salts his body now contained. After the reporting the same answer for the twenty-sixth time, he is once again patiently ordered to repeat the same task.
The fencing student is now feeling quite ill but obediently hobbles away to perform the task.
This time however, he is able to see differently. As he pours the tomato juice into his cup, still woozy and nauseated and barely thinking about finding the “right” answer, he notes the brilliant red color of the tomato juice and the smell that, although sweet, now makes him want to gag. As he sips it, he feels his thoat closing around the pulpy juice and his stomach begins to tighten. As he peers into the now empty cup, he observes that it’s not empty at all and that a thick layer of pulpy red still remained loosely layered at the bottom of the cup.
He sat for a moment and watched the streams of fleshy juice particles collect at the base of the tipped cup. He watched even longer and saw tiny pulpy pieces that seemed to be sliding at their own pace down the smooth glass surface. Some formed their own streams and the joined other pulpy beings to forge their journey together. Still others resisted gravity and remained for a great while holding onto that glass wall until its collected potential energy turned kinetic and it formed its own tiny stream. Sometimes the pattern of the stream looked straight, other times it was more curvilinear, and still other times it was a wild zig zag, or perhaps it was a combination of the three. That withstanding, every stream was begun by one pulpy leader and then followed and forged by other pulpy pieces who joined the first pulpy piece. Most importantly though, every path was unique and so had to form in its own time.
The fencing student then reported this to his fencing master and the fencing master seemed pleased. He said, “That is your tactical lesson for the day. Next time that you want to win a medal, or make a National Team, or qualify for the Olympic Games, remember those pulpy tomato pieces. Most people finish a cup of juice or finish out a season or an Olympic quadrennial and think that their cup is empty; But if they observe more closely, they would see that the most interesting process has just begun and that, like the pulpy tomato pieces, each being moves in its own time and in a unique stream.”
So here I am in Virginia Beach where US Nationals is being held. I’m ranked in the top 8 nationally but it’s no longer numerically possible for me to make the 2012 US Olympic Team. I should probably feel distraught but I actually feel more motivated than ever. I am going into the 2016 Olympic quadrennial armed with the experience of the last quadrennial. I’ve come so close that I could taste it and I still know in my heart that this is totally possible and that with hard work and the right attitude, my Olympic dreams could come to fruition. Thank you to all of my friends, family, and sponsors who have been behind me this far. As the fictional zen master said in a story drawn up from my sometimes overactive imagination, “the most exciting part of the journey is just beginning.”
In celebration of my favorite fruit, the tomato, I just had to share these images from the largest tomato celebration on the planet, La Tomatina!