The Embodiment of Knowledge

The Embodiment of Knowledge

The Embodiment of Knowledge

The Embodiment of Knowledge

Excerpt

During the years when I was going to graduate school I used to (as often as I thought I could afford it) take time off from the study of Anglo-Saxon or seminars in the Transcendentalists or Benjamin Franklin, sneak across the Charles to Boston Garden and watch Bill Russell lead the Boston Celtics against the best the National Basketball Association had to offer. Russell provided a different kind of education. At six-foot-nine he wasn't the tallest center in the league, he wasn't especially fast, his shooting average was only respectable, yet in every move he made he manifested an intelligence, both mental and physical, that enabled him to make fools of men as much as five inches taller. He had by then made himself into a myth which he proved in his own person each night he played, continuing his own revolution in the nature of professional basketball. It was a matter of timing, of position, of that complex psychology of sports that's part foreknowledge, part intimidation and part drama. Above all it was a matter of a bodily intelligence in which the fundamentals of the game and an enormous amount of data--his opponents' most likely moves, the physics of the speed and trajectory of a basketball bouncing off a steel hoop, the constantly changing position of the other nine men on the court--all that information and more has become a possession and an activity of the synapses and muscles so that there is no split between brain and limbs, and one might almost say his body thought. Watching Russell go up for a rebound against Wilt Chamberlain (seven-foot-two) and coming down with the ball, his head already jerking from side to side trying to spot an open man to pass off to . . .

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