By John Fitzsimmons Mahoney
Ulysses Press, 137 pp.
Long renowned for their archery, it was widely assumed that Zen Buddhists can't jump. Not so, writes basketball coach John Mahoney. Dispensing practical instruction in the framework of Eastern philosophy, he sees basketball as a virtual catechism of Zen teachings, the perfect embodiment of such principles as centering, harmony, aimlessness and the Negative Way. A good jump-shot is both an effortless reflex and a precise, improvisatory response to the contingencies of the game. It is a model for the ideal state of being in which our actions become one with the world unfolding about us.
Of course, any process by which complex, stressful physical motions become "second nature"-which we undergo not just with jump-shots, but with learning to play an instrument, to drive or even to walk-gives us a deeply satisfying sense of mastery and freedom from self-consciousness. Eastern traditions place such processes-in ritual forms like yoga, archery and tai chi-at the center of their religious practice and provide an enraptured metaphysical language to heighten their intensity. Setting this tradition in an American context, this is an engaging book for anyone interested in one of the most basic and profound of human experiences.