When Time Hangs In The Air

Well, I tried the same trick again this week and asked my partner what I should write about. They said: “Badminton”.

Well, what they meant by “Badminton” was that this week we ordered and received through the post two cheap rackets and three shuttlecocks. I am not a ‘sporty’ person, but I’ve felt encouraged lately to exert myself a little, to perhaps occasionally get out of breath and even sweat sometimes. People say it’s good for your health.

I don’t like running and find that pain you get in your chest after running 100 meters unbearable to sustain, so how people run on and on for hours I have no idea. They must have very different bodies and/or minds to my own. So, I thought Badminton was about the only sport I could envision myself playing.

Note that we didn’t order a net, as we didn’t want to go too far too fast. We figured that if we can get to the point where we can maintain a good rally (our current high is 13 hits) then we might go another step and invest in a cheap and portable net.

We play in the local park by the way, or should say ”played” because, in truth, we have only played once. Since then we have been recovering. The first exchange lasted about 10 minutes, playing in the shade of trees on a hot day. Then we collapsed for a bit and lay back and watched the clouds (something I’ve done a lot this year).

After a break of about 15 minutes we played again for another 10 minutes, followed by a longer break before we went home. The next day it seemed too soon somehow to play again and so we rested. We are planning to play again, though today the weather is perhaps too grey and damp.

What attracted me to Badminton was, when I think about it, the shuttlecock. I.e. Badminton is not a ‘ball game’. I don’t know the history of the game and its peculiar technology but I feel like congratulating whoever it was who, hundreds of years ago I suspect, thought of gluing some feathers to a piece of cork (or some similar proto-shuttlecock) and creating that strange floating motion through the air that is peculiar  to the game, and which follows that satisfying, weightless ‘ping’ when the cork-end of the shuttlecock conveniently meets the tightly stretched textile of the rushing racket.

All this graceful subtlety doesn’t solve the problem of exertion however, and, though Badminton looks less aggressive and ambitious than Ping Pong or Tennis it still requires a lot of short sudden bursts of speed and pulls you in all directions, and so leaves you tired quite quickly – if, that is, you are someone like myself who spends most of their time sitting, lying, reading, computing, or walking – all at a leisurely pace.

Still I love that ‘ping’ on the racket and peculiar way the shuttlecock can hang in the air, somehow elongating time in a way that I find quite beautiful.

I pride myself on my writing and always feel ashamed that I am a relatively poor scholar and researcher. Nevertheless, I have cultivated a certain freedom for myself that allows me to affirm whatever I am doing and thinking as ‘research’ and as an idiosyncratic kind of ‘scholarship’. So, hopefully you can see, by writing about precisely what is to hand, and even by writing on a theme suggested by others, we can always be led into an area that requires further research e.g. here regarding the origins, the history, the technologies and the etymologies of Badminton, shuttlecock etc.

Furthermore, by pursuing this path, I believe that I, or you, or somebody else would soon find themselves immersed in something fascinating, creative and productive – research!

I can also allow this line of thought to lead me to, or back to a cherished, indeed deeply loved work of art, one of my favourite films of all time in fact, i.e. the movie called ‘Poetry‘ directed by the Korean director Lee Chang Dong. I could write a lot about this movie, so perhaps it’s good that I come to it at the end of my blog today. Suffice to say that there is a decisive scene in which Badminton (of a similarly recreative variety, played without a net, in a quiet street on a summer evening, between a grandmother and a grandson), plays a decisive part.

It may even be that the director and the actors also, like me, appreciated the way the shuttlecock pings off the racket and then hangs slightly in the air in that beautiful way that it does, as all the strands of the film – whose theme is the relation of art to conscience and to justice – quietly come together in that scene, in that subtly decisive moment of the film.

I highly recommend this movie. As for Badminton itself, I need to rest a little longer and will let you know next week if I have managed to sustain my interest.



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