BreadBy Raymund Fernandez
Cebu Daily News
In his short sleep he dreamt kneading and folding dough to make bread. It is a difficult task requiring much physical stamina. It is stamina which involves the whole body. The dough is set on a table. In front of which he must stand. He folds the batch and then presses down into it using the strength of his arms and shoulder coupled with his full weight. All these over and over again until the texture is just right. And for some breads he actually has to give it a good punch to get it just right.
It gives him good opportunity to think, this tedious process of kneading and folding. And he might have longed to be a singer and boxer one day. Did he ever guess he would be a champion? Did he know for certain he might be known one day as one of the greatest boxers of all time second only to Muhammad Ali? Did he ever dream of making all that money and owning all those cars? When did he start hungering for it? Has he lost his hunger?
These questions form part of his narrative. They are inevitable. The name is only a name. It is only a cue or a brand, if you will. But as more people learn to recognize it, so too grows the wealth of its meanings. And so the boxer in time becomes related to the pride of a nation and an endorser of products. He becomes a peace time weapon the nation might use to hold itself together against its imagined enemies. He becomes exemplary of every poor person’s dream to rise above abject misery. At times but only if he allows it he might even become an act of God.
But these are only narratives. They are what people think they see. And they always see what they want. The boxer himself sees the world differently.
Dancing with his opponent up in the ring, the boxer knows this is his stage. He must contain its expanse in his head and locate himself there at every instance in the bout. What can he see from where he stands? Not everything. Indeed, he can see very little. To find his enemy he must peek through his own gloves. He raises them in front of him for protection. They cover his eyes. He must sense more than see his opponent. He feels for where he is with his punches. And then he waits for the response. Feels the texture of his opponent’s fists. Are they strong? Do they sting? How much weight is behind them? What is the size of his enemy? How quickly does he move? Where is he? How much do the punches hurt? Can he outlast them?
He must respond to him punch for punch. He cannot know the exact mettle of him. But neither can he his. He must match the intensity of his assault. Does he intend to make this a contest of speed or of brawn or of brains? He must guess the manner of his attack. And then he must move quickly to make this his game.
And all these are caught inside rhythmic time. There is a beat that the boxer must come to understand and then match. The punches are like notes. In jazz one can always put unexpected notes off-tempo, inside and off the regular beat of the music. Not too many. One will do, if it is completely unexpected. And if it is a dynamite punch it might floor the opponent and put him to sleep. And people will not even see the punch until the replays and the slo-mo reviews.
After which they will go on with their theories and their analysis about why he fell. And some of these, as he perfectly knows by now, will be completely ridiculous and sometimes entirely self serving. Such as the claim that he fell because he switched religions.
He was knocked out by an act of God?
What kind of God would waste time fixing a boxing match while thousands of little children go homeless or hungry if they did not die in the wake of typhoon Pablo? If God is that way, why believe in Him? And won’t He give him room to search for Him in his own way and in his own time?
Isn’t it good enough that he even searches for Him at all after he traveled from poor bakery worker and kneader of breads to where he is now, saddled with property, power, wealth and his retinue of so called “friends”?
In the ring, he makes his bread as he always did. Alone. And with only a single opponent whose singular intention is known and clearly stated. He carries only himself. He rises and falls on his own strengths and weaknesses. Let the world watch as God must, from a far distance and with the rest of the audience.
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