While Graeme Dott battled his way to the final of the Snooker Grand Prix with master strokes against Tom Ford, his opponent was several times credited with improvements in mentality thanks to working with a ‘mind coach’. Less spoken of is Graeme's story of struggle against depression (BBC article linked behind the image: image courtesy Wikipedia). In the game’s closing stages, Tom proved himself well able to come back and square the match until Graeme took on a difficult shot, fluked two reds and landed plum on the black to win the frame.
Snooker is unique in many respects, not least because the table plays too. Other ball games rely on straightforward laws of physics - whether you’re winding from the tee across turf or kicking a football to a team-mate, the ground doesn’t play one off against the other like the green baize does. You’ll often hear snooker commentators say that when the balls are with you, they’re with you, and when they’re against you, there’s nothing you can do. The table, as champion demigod Steve Davis has said, is very much a third player.
All ball games are psychological to some degree. Coaches have a job to do in making sure mind sets are on track to win. But generally speaking, given a possible swing in one direction, consistency comes to light in performance of a person or group throughout the game being played. Not so in snooker. A player’s capacity to win can turn from one frame of mind to the other in a matter of minutes, from elation to catastrophe in one foul swoop. Perhaps this is the reason it’s become so popular. If you can handle the silence, there’s never a dull moment.
Ali Carter (meet him here) is another player with troubled stories to tell. Battling cancer and various mental frailties to reach his present form, he’s enjoying an increasing level of well-deserved popularity in the wake of his fraught experiences. In the UK Championship final, he showed the style and merit of his talent in reaching the point where he could take back the stakes in his favour. His personality exudes quiet warmth and rooting for him is joyful, like a real fire in winter.
The thing that sets snooker apart is, for me, quantum. Mechanics come into it with angles and geometric analyses, but you don’t get down to a ball and work out the maths. As a player, I know how it feels when the object ball ‘talks’ to you, tells you exactly where to strike and how, while your job is to wait for that point of accuracy as you feather and make sure you cue the white to leave it in the right place for later. You judge an angle walking into the shot, but successful execution is as reliant on the ball telling you what to do as it is on your notion of where the pocket is. So-called ‘blind shots’ where you can’t even see the pocket show this communication system at work.
Attitude on the table also makes a big difference to how the balls will play. Flukes happen in favour of one player or the other, but rare it is to get a fluke and land yourself with the next pot when you’re just not ‘getting into’ the game. You’re much more likely to fluke and end up snookered if you’re feeling in any way fragile. This tendency for the table to play can only be optimised on a moment-by-moment basis, so whatever is going through a player’s mind is as important as what’s on the cloth at the time. That's me there, by the way, 38 years ago. Things were different then.
Mental health is big potatoes right now. We hear many stories of vulnerability and valiant journeys to success across the whole range of popular sports, so snooker is no league winner there. But the actual game, in terms of its ruthlessness in forcing you to take account of quantum law in relation both to yourself and the balls on the table, is unparalleled in potential for exploration. There are direct synergies between learning to play snooker and learning valuable tools in mentality. Like life, it’s tough - in getting proficient enough to beat the odds, you dedicate yourself to the task. But wherever you get to, it’s worth it, just as someone promised life would be.
Two words synonymous with change.
Spires are spiral by design, and words that contain this geodesic are rare. You can breathe easy - respiration says so.
"Geodesic" might seem like an ambiguous term here, but bear with the definition as on dictionary.com:
"Noun. A curve that locally minimizes the distance between two points on any mathematically defined space, such as a curved manifold. Equivalently, it is a path of minimal curvature. In noncurved three-dimensional space, the geodesic is a straight line."
Spires (architecturally) are typically considered to comprise straight lines from a collection of points (at the base) to a single point (at the apex) - a spiral is comprised of curves denoting the shortest possible path from one point to the next traversing the circumference at any given point in the geometry of the spire. A differential addressed by WikiDiff thus:
"... the difference between spiral and spire is that spiral is (geometry) a curve that is the locus of a point that rotates about a fixed point while continuously increasing its distance from that point while spire is (geometry) the part of a spiral generated in one revolution of the straight line about the pole.
As nouns the difference between spiral and spire is that spiral is (geometry) a curve that is the locus of a point that rotates about a fixed point while continuously increasing its distance from that point while spire is or spire can be one of the sinuous foldings of a serpent or other reptile; a coil.
As verbs the difference between spiral and spire is that spiral is to move along the path of a spiral or helix while spire is of a seed, plant etc: to sprout, to send forth the early shoots of growth; to germinate or spire can be (obsolete) to breathe.
As a adjective spiral is helical, like a spiral."
So the two definitions seem related but confusing, although it could easily be said that "spiral" is the collective noun for "spire".
The seedling uncoils from a spiral, developing in a Fibonacci sequence of cellular repetitions to produce its adult form. Notwithstanding that all this is metaphorically describing something we already understand. Like the helix of that DNA strand we've never seen other than in CGI...
Okay, so enough of that. What about real life? There's so much doom and gloom around that it's hard to think straight. In the UK, we found ourselves sold down the river by our leaders. Being British, we're likely only to sulk quietly in our little boxes and complain to each other over the odd drink. History repeats itself, civilisations get corrupted. The point of origin seems always to be money. Oh dear, never mind, it'll all come right in the end.
At the top of any apex is a singular point at which you can say, "there it ends". There may well be a new beginning after the point of completion, of course, but that phase of life is over, as it were; the spire of your aspiration has reached the singularity where the laws of physics break down.
Inspiration being the fuel that gets us there, it stands to reason (if you credit language with any synchronicity in its creation, that is) that "Insp" is 'within' and "Asp" is 'without', or 'lies back of' as Florence Scovel Shinn put it. Look her up via the link - she was way ahead of her time.
Should we aspire to share our inspirations in the course of ascension from baseline to singularity, we touch a lot of lives. Family, loved ones of all kinds, even those harder to love can take a moment from an inspiration you shared. Inspired thus, even if fleetingly, they can take a step up their own staircase to the next level, which you helped them to manifest.
Let's for a moment let nothing be coincidence. That DNA spiral repeated throughout your physical form, it lets us know that the foundations of nature - including our own composition - rely on spiral networks to exist. In science you're likely to find a similar word referencing all kinds of variants - the word is "Chiral". scroll through the list here in Wikipedia and the correlations become very clear. Better still, read the brilliant article by Philip Ball, linked to the image of bees above.
Exploring the foundations of Quantum Mechanics, you'll find it opens doors to new appreciations and ways of thinking that prove extremely useful over time. Arguments over choice v. destiny will rage on no doubt, but at the end of the day it's your life, my life, all lives with those chiralities to contend with. We can always start again, any time we like.
Kathy is the author of Quantumology. She met quantum mechanics in 1997 and pledged allegiance to its sources thereafter. These are her personal thoughts and testimonies. For professional testimonials please see Programmes.