PHOTO | " If the world was perfect,it wouldn't be", Yogi Berra

By Robert Di Raddo.We accept perfection as complete alignment to a set point of established societal measures. Is that really perfection? Perhaps real perfection is the achievement of a higher-level measure, facilitated by robustly turning one’s weaknesses into strengths. Yogi left us last week. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra died on September 22, 2015 at the age of 90. He was a legendary catcher with the New York Yankees, 18-time all-star and 13-time World Series champion. Lawrence was born in an Italian neighbourhood in St Louis, Missouri, to immigrants from Northern Italy, mother Paolina Longoni and bricklayer father Pietro Berra. A middle school dropout, Yogi Berra played baseball with a style of his own. Yogi played catcher, the most difficult and concentration-demanding position. He received his nickname from a teammate who indicated he looked like a Hindu yogi, when he sat with crossed arms and legs waiting to come up to bat. Praised for his powerful bat, defense and pitch calling, he caught the only post-season perfect game - thrown by an ordinary pitcher, Don Larsen. Yes, Number 8 was one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and his greatness is amplified by his achievements in spite of perceived shortcomings. As the great Yankee manager Casey Stengel said, “Mr. Berra is a very strange fellow of very remarkable abilities.” Yogi Berra turned the underestimation of his skills by others - the persistent ridicule of his intellect and appearance indicative of prehistoric humans in anthropology textbooks - into an advantage. His legacy has made him renowned both as an athlete and as a man. In particular, Yogi turned his fractured mastery of language into a goofy wit, with famous one-liners that were nonsensical, yet philosophical and wise beyond comparison. Declarations so powerful that they resonated with all people, with their depth only revealed once we got over the humour. Yogi relied on motivational conundrums with regard to the journey of life. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” was Yogi’s response on how to get to his house, with both roads, starting at a fork, actually leading to the destination. The message is forever used to encourage decisiveness and actively moving forward in the journey of life – things will work out as long as you act and adapt. Maintaining a balance between intricate planning and letting life unfold, was exhibited in one-liners “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else”,“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Wherever one is on the balance, decisiveness in taking those forks is encouraged. Learning by living was core to Yogi’s principles. “You can observe a lot just by watching,” was guidance he provided when he was a manager – with the underlying message that much can be learned if one pays attention to details in a passing event. “We made too many wrong mistakes”, with the message that “right” mistakes allow us to learn and move forward, whereas “wrong” mistakes do not. “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is,” demonstrating the importance of learning by doing, and not just by thinking. Giving up and becoming prematurely complacent were not in Yogi’s vocabulary. “It ain’t over til it’s over,” was the rallying call of his mediocre Mets team of 1973 who never gave up, overachieved and made it to the World Series Championship. “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” a comment as to how a previously excellent restaurant had lost its edge by sitting on its popularity, teaching us not to rest on our laurels. Yogi was also adept at passing important messages via intentional absurdity. “90% of the game is half-mental,” a mathematical statement, intentionally ridiculous, to highlight the importance of mental toughness. Another mathematical faux-pas, “Cut my pizza into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat six,” perhaps showing us that sometimes we need so address a daunting task differently. “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” indicating the worsening of core values from earlier days. The intentional slip, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility,” possibly demonstrating not to lay blame on our performance on external factors. Being at peace with the person you are, was Yogi’s message later in life. “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true,” a statement signifying that we should look beyond what others superficially think of us. “I never said most of the things I said,” strategically passing the message that sometimes, even if we err in what we say, we should take it in stride. There were many other one-liners, not always with a concealed message, “Okay you guys, pair up in threes”, “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous”, “He must have made that before he died”, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” Or perhaps I just am not wise enough yet to grasp the meaning of these – maybe before I move on? Yogi’s legacy includes the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Centre and having a children’s cartoon character named after him. The New York Times in 1963, claimed Yogi Berra was shrewd, intelligent and opportunistic, by adopting a disposition that brought him quick acceptance and minimized expectations. In 2005, the Economist Magazine named Yogi Berra the Wisest Fool of the Past Fifty Years. As grounded as a man can be, Yogi had only pity for those that filled their brains with frivolous information. So what is my favourite Yogi saying? That’s right, “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” By applying the principles of logic, one could declare “The world is perfect because it is imperfect”. Love it! Thank you Yogi.
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Hanno contribuito: Anna Maria Barone, Frank Verrillo, Margherita Rainone, David Verrillo
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