From a Reader:

On the Beauty of Roger Federer’s Game, and the “Beauty” of Bob Avakian’s Game—Why BA Is the Most Important Political Thinker and Leader in the World Today



When Bob Avakian’s (BA) article “REVOLUTION, ROGER FEDERER’S TENNIS: WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER? A LOT ACTUALLY.” appeared in last June, I admit to being a little thrown off (an article from BA on tennis) but also a little excited. While I never played tennis competitively, and have not watched much professional tennis over the years, I had watched enough to have developed an appreciation of Roger Federer’s game and a beginning understanding of the difference between Federer and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, his two main rivals. recently reposted the article and in rereading it, I was deeply moved by the second paragraph where BA writes :

What defines Federer’s tennis, and more than anything sets it apart from even his greatest rivals—more than all of his great accomplishments, playing at the highest level of men’s tennis for nearly two decades, from the time he was around 20 to the time, now, when he is approaching 40—is the artistry and beauty of his game. And the revolution I am talking about—a revolution guided by communism, in its further development with the new communism that has resulted from decades of work that I have carried out—this revolution, and the radically different society and world that it aims to bring into being, could not do without, and has as one of its main goals and requirements, precisely an appreciation of and the flowering of beauty and artistry, in many different dimensions of human endeavor.

For some reason, this time around, this paragraph really struck me. Amid all the outrages and horrors the people of the world confront—the devastation of a worldwide pandemic, where Mike Pence has received more vaccinations than 130 countries in the world; the climate catastrophe continuing to unfold, creating among other things, the forced migration of tens of millions of refugees; the rise of fascist movements and governments around the globe, and so much more—and where the urgent need for revolution has never been more immediate, the perspective, insights and method BA employed in writing about something that many people (and most political activists) might not consider worth the time and effort, made me step back to once again think both about the beauty of Federer’s game and also the "beauty" of BA's game—why he is the most important political thinker and leader in the world today.   

It is this ability—not just to be “amazed” by elements of the world around us but to identify and explore this appreciation as a critical aspect of the communist world we are fighting to bring into being and a crucial part of what it means to be a communist leader today; to bring to it the need to apply a scientific method and BA’s focus on the importance of applying that scientific method to all the big questions confronting us—that sets him apart from all other political thinkers and leaders and makes me feel like the term “political” is inadequate. 

BA dives deeply into what makes Federer’s game so unique; the “footwork, movement and flow" that sets Federer apart from other great tennis players and that put him in position to make the shots that simply defy possibility. One of the joys of sport are those moments when something totally unexpected and magical happens, but BA draws out that with Federer, even that “magic” is infused with consistent hard work and practice. This approach combined with his other skills always give Federer a chance to win—even against what BA describes as the “heavy hitters” in contemporary men’s tennis—where changes and developments in the men’s professional game tend to favor strength over the finesse and grace that characterize Federer's own game. 

Another element to Federer's game that BA draws out and which strikes me as special is his willingness to experiment with shots and techniques in the course of a match, even if it might risk losing a point or a match. Frankly, this is unheard of in professional sports of any kind. It is not that that Federer doesn’t want to win or that he is not extremely competitive (nor, as BA points out, that he is undisciplined or that he loses his concentration). It is Federer’s own appreciation of the artistry of the game that gives him both the desire and freedom to strive to expand the limits of what people consider possible. In the highly competitive world of professional tennis, no one else would dare risk losing a game by experimenting is such a way. What this creates are both (sometimes spectacular) failures but also remarkable moments of brilliance—so much so that later, people are more likely to remember the moment than who actually won the game. And when successful, those moments (known in tennis circles as “Federer moments”) can dramatically alter the trajectory of the entire game.

In comparison, for me, watching Nadal, who is himself one of the greatest tennis players of all times, can be like watching a machine, remarkable in its consistency but predictable to the point of sometimes boring. Watching Djokovic literally smash his racket on the court, at losing a point (as he did during this year's Australian Open) is simply painful.

I especially appreciated BA making it clear that to attempt to reduce the relevance of Federer’s brilliance to how it can be narrowly applied to the process of making revolution is wrong and that the “link” between the revolution humanity needs and the tennis of Roger Federer is the profound human need “to be amazed." But I also think that there are other lessons that need to be taken from BA's approach and orientation and, in writing this article, BA is again modeling what it means to be a communist leader in the fullest sense of the meaning. 

BA concludes the article: 

To return to the theme of this article, as expressed in the title, in the future being aimed for with revolution based on the new communism, tennis will not play the same role as it does in the world as it is now, dominated by the dynamics and dictates of the system of capitalism-imperialism and consequently restricted far too much to those with (or with backing from those with) a certain level of finances and resources. But, as spoken to in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—a sweeping vision and concrete blueprint for a radically different and far better society and world—there will continue to be a need for and importance to sports, with an emphasis on basic sports activities involving the masses of people, to promote their health and recreation, but also providing for full-time (professional) sports, which will take place within the overall framework of the relations and values of this radically new society, and will serve to foster friendship and comradeship among those competing, and those following such competition, while promoting and giving expression to the joy, the beauty and the wonder that sports, at its best, can inspire. 

From this perspective, as we look forward to and work actively to make a reality of this revolution, and everything it will finally make possible, if we do not wish to diminish the vision and the goal to which this revolution must aspire, and the kind of society and world it must strive to bring into being, we cannot fail to appreciate beauty and wonder, in the natural world and in the creations of human beings, even now amidst the terrible conditions which this currently ruling system of capitalism-imperialism imposes on the masses of humanity. And from that standpoint, the tennis of Roger Federer has a great deal to do with the revolution we need, even as that revolution will give rise to beauty, and give expression to the need to be amazed, in ways beyond what can even be imagined today.

Again, the breadth that BA demonstrates in this last paragraph is breathtaking if you step back and think about it. What other political leader would dare to grapple with the question of the role of sports under socialism, including providing funding for “professional” athletes as he does in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, a document providing the basis to move to a world of freely associating human beings, where the terms “amateur” and “professional” no longer hold meaning—while underscoring the importance of appreciating the instances of “beauty and wonder” that exists even in today’s terrible world? To me, he does this in such a way that the “beauty and wonder” are not “escapes” from the horrors of the world we live in (as I have often viewed them), but glimpses of the possibilities that help provide the basis for wanting to contribute everything we can to bringing about the revolution that could unleash the untapped potential of humanity to appreciate, contribute to and preserve this beauty and wonder. 

I am resending the article out to friends who have more of a foot in the tennis world and am encouraging them to send me their own thoughts. For so many people, the popular image of socialism and communism remains, at best, a “trade off” where the heights of artistry achieved by individuals like Roger Federer are seen as being sacrificed to the “greater good” of society as a whole and where individual excellence is supposedly tamped down in the name of meeting the material needs of the people. That has never been BA’s approach and it has never been more clearly demonstrated as in this article. It is worth people going back to.

A reader

CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America



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