The mysteries of pool

September 21, 2017

Life is full of subtle changes and there is more to see than just what you look for, writes Tatura Uniting Church minister Brian Spencer.

Farm clearing sales are dangerous things to let men go to unaccompanied or with a cheque book.

There’s always a reason to attend the sale, but that reason has nothing to do with what people may actually come home with.

Without the voice of moderation — ‘‘that’s more expensive than a new one’’ — the desire to win the bidding war can outstrip the desire for a bargain.

My father loved clearing sales.

Without a voice of reason — ‘‘where are you going to put it?’’ — the thrill of a bargain can yield some unexpected surprises.

Large items can go cheaply, simply because few people have room for them.

Smaller items, or things that can stay outdoors, can go for very high prices because everyone could do with one more.

Back in 1960 my father went to a clearing sale.

As he told it, he never meant to actually buy the three-quarter slate-base Alcock billiard table.

He was only helping the auctioneer with a £10 starting bid, but as no-one else bid, it was knocked down to him.

It came with a full set of cues and snooker balls and was nine feet long and four-and-a-half feet wide.

I would love to have overheard the conversation he had with my mother.

Yes, it was a bargain, but we didn’t need it and where was it going to go?

The farm house was a simple three-bedroom weatherboard and as there were six children and two adults there wasn’t any spare room for a large billiard table.

The solution was to build a new ‘‘bedroom’’ for the growing family.

So it was that I grew up with a three-quarter-size billiard table in my bedroom.

It was a big bedroom with a bed in each of three corners and a door in the fourth corner, and a large billiard table in the middle.

Needless to say I played a lot of billiards and snooker, which in later years has become mostly pool.

It is often said that being a good pool player is the sign of a misspent youth, but it is a sport that can be played into one’s old age.

I still play pool competitively.

What I love about pool is that every game is different.

The 15 balls are set in the triangle and aligned as near as possible to the same position each time, but every break is different.

The balls scatter in unpredictable ways.

Ever-so-slight differences in the set-up and break make for novel problems and opportunities for the game to unfold.

It serves to remind me that every encounter and conversation I have with someone also has many unpredictable outcomes.

Sometimes when we are feeling jaded, life can appear to be the ‘‘same old, same old’’.

When we feel we have seen it all before, when we think we know what someone will say, when we think we know how someone feels — we are missing out.

The psychologists call it confirmation bias.

We only see what we are looking for.

Life is full of subtle changes.

The set-up may be the same, but the day is different.

Our mood, their mood, new information, new perspectives create new problems and opportunities to connect with those we love, to build bridges of understanding to those we don’t know.

We gloss over these changes to our loss.

The Gospel of John records a conversation between Jesus and two would-be disciples: ‘‘what are you looking for?’’ he asks.

It’s as if Jesus is asking: what are you expecting to see? What do you have eyes to see?

I like to think he’s saying: stop looking for what is, for what you know and come on a journey with me.

There is more to see than what we look for.

There is more to see in myself and more to see in my enemies than just what I look for.

There is more to see in this country than just what I look for.

We need to stop looking for affirmation of what is and has been and instead see the world and others and ourselves through the eyes of a God who loves all of it madly and sees endless possibilities.

This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

— Brian Spencer, minister,

Tatura Uniting Church

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