Friday, July 14, 2006

Plimsoll Mark

Friday, July 14, 2006 Observation:

Well, Major League Baseball has made it to and through the annual all-star break.  Of course the American League won the all-star game as they have for the past several years.  Why do I have to be cursed with being a National League fan as well as a Dodger fan?  Speaking of the Dodgers they are only two games out of first place in the National League West -- will miracles never cease?

Major league baseball players play 162 games beginning in April and ending in September.  Although they are a bunch of overpaid millionaires playing a "game", even they need to take a break to reenergize and refocus their efforts for the "dog days" of late summer and early fall.  Too much of anything can be detrimental to our mental health and thus we need an occasional break.

A while back I was reading an article regarding the need of recharging our batteries from time to time in "The Religious Educator" periodical published at BYU.  An institute director at Purdue University in Indiana by the name of C. Robert Line, the author of the article, introduced me to an interesting concept in his writing called the "Plimsoll Mark".  I went to the Internet to research the "Plimsoll Mark" and discovered the following: "Samuel Plimsoll brought about one of the greatest shipping revolutions ever known by shocking the British nation into making reforms which have saved the lives of countless seamen. By the mid-1800's, the overloading of English ships had become a national problem. Plimsoll took up as a crusade the plan of James Hall to require that vessels bear a load line marking indicating when they were overloaded, hence ensuring the safety of crew and cargo. His violent speeches aroused the House of Commons; his book, Our Seamen, shocked the people at large into clamorous indignation. His book also earned him the hatred of many ship owners who set in train a series of legal battles against Plimsoll. Through this adversity and personal loss, Plimsoll clung doggedly to his facts. He fought to the point of utter exhaustion until finally, in 1876, Parliament was forced to pass the Unseaworthy Ships Bill into law, requiring that vessels bear the load line freeboard marking. It was soon known as the "Plimsoll Mark" and was eventually adopted by all maritime nations of the world."  (

The metaphor regarding the "Plimsoll Mark" is pretty obvious.  Just as a ship will become unsteady and subject to disaster if overloaded, so will a human being experience the same thing.  We all have a "Plimsoll Mark".  It will vary from person to person, but all of us can experience overload if we exceed our own unique "Plimsoll Mark" with regard to work, tension, and stress.  Just like highly overpaid millionaire baseball players we too need to take an "all-star" break from time to time.

The way we re-create ourselves when we begin to exceed our own individual "Plimsoll Mark" will vary of course from individual to individual.  For my wife Jo Anne, she finds renewed energy through buying and returning items.  I am a little concerned because her favorite store, Robinsons-May, is going out of business soon.  Jo Anne has tried to keep it afloat by herself, but apparently, despite her best efforts, the store is going bust.  I am praying that Macy's is not the store that fills the void; I'm thinking more along the lines of Kmart.

Spencer W. Kimball loved movies and found in them a way to deal with his "Plimsoll Mark".  From his biography we read: " Movies provided one of his relaxations. All the winter Spencer bought a monthly family ticket for a dollar to the Thursday night movie at the Ramona Theater. The shows were mostly second rate, but a bargain. The better theater was over on Main Street. (Spencer ever after teased his son Andrew about the time a freckle-faced girl from Cactus Flat sat on his lap by mistake in the dark.) When Spencer found himself in a city waiting for a train he often went to the theater. He had gone to the silent films (and even sung at intermission) in the "Cozy Corner" in Thatcher as a youth. He and Camilla had marveled at the advent of talkies, seeing their first in Los Angeles in 1930. They loved films."
"In 1939 his diary, though incomplete, mentions thirty-eight movies. One day in 1938, while on vacation, he saw two double bills: Tom Sawyer, No Time to Marry, Tale of Two Cities, and Naughty Marietta. Particularly in the early years as an apostle, when travel by train often meant layovers, he took advantage of the chance to catch up on movies and went, occasionally even to two or three, after not having attended at all for months. In 1949 his journal notes fifteen movies, in 1950, twenty-nine. During much of this time he was on enforced vacation, recovering from his heart attack. He noted a little apologetically, "We see many shows when away like this and resting, since we see so few when at work normally."  (Andrew E. Kimball, Edward L. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 146-147.)

Parenthetically, I might suggest that today's movies are a far cry from those that were watched and loved by President Kimball, one of the hardest working apostles the Church has ever known.  And then there are those rare individuals who seem to have no need of a "Plimsoll Mark". 

Apparently Elder James E. Talmage, the author of the book "Jesus the Christ" was absent a "Plimsoll Mark".  Elder Talmage always worked long hours almost never taking any time off.  President Heber J. Grant was very concerned about Elder Talmage's health and tried to get him to play golf, thinking it would be a good diversion and beneficial to him.  President Grant was an avid golfer and knew that if he could get Elder Talmage to try the game that he would be converted to it for the rest of his life.  His son, John Talmage, recorded what happened: "... Finally a compromise was reached [between President Grant and Elder Talmage], and a test agreed upon: James would give the game of golf an honest trial, and work at it until he was able to hit a drive which President Grant would rate as satisfactory, "a real golf shot." "If you hit just one really good drive, nature will do the rest," President Grant assured his pupil-to-be. "You won't be able to resist the game after that.  It was agreed that James would make his own choice after he had acquired the skill to hit the specified shot... If, after giving the game a fair trial, James still felt no interest, President Grant would cease his efforts to get Dr. Talmage to play."

"On an appointed day, the two, accompanied by a number of others of the General Authorities who played golf and who had joined the friendly argument on the side of President Grant, proceeded to Nibley Park for James' first session in what was expected to be a series of lessons. James removed his coat and was shown how to grip the club and take his stance at the ball. The coordinated movements involved in making a golf stroke were carefully explained and then demonstrated by President Grant and by others. Finally it came James' turn to try it himself."

What followed astonished all those who watched, and probably James himself. Instead of missing the ball completely, or weakly pushing it a few feet along the grass, James somehow managed to strike the ball cleanly and with substantial force. It took off in a fine arc and with only a minimum amount of slice. Some who saw it described it later as "a truly magnificent drive," which was probably a considerable exaggeration. However, there was consensus that the ball went close to 200 yards and stayed in the fairway... The spectators were momentarily struck dumb, then burst into enthusiastic applause. "Congratulations," said President Grant, rushing forward, beaming, with outstretched hand. "That was a fine shot you will remember for the rest of your life." "You mean that was a fully satisfactory golf shot?" James asked, cautiously. "It certainly was!" said President Grant. "Then I have fulfilled my part of the agreement?" "You have-and don't you feel the thrill of excitement? Now you'll be playing regularly. As a matter of fact, we can go into the clubhouse now and I will help you select a set of clubs." "Thank you," said James, putting on his coat. "If I have carried out my part of the agreement, then I shall call on you to live up to yours. You promised that if I hit a satisfactory drive and did not feel the spontaneous desire to play, you would stop urging me to do so. Now I should like to get back to the office, where I have a great deal of work waiting. So far as is known, James never again struck a golf ball, or made the attempt."  (John R. Talmage, Talmage Story: Life of James E. Talmage--Educator, Scientist, Apostle, 226-229.)

So what does a "mobility impaired" old guy on life support do when he hits his "Plimsoll Mark"?  I am limited physically in what I can do, but after hours of working on my computer and reading I reach my "Plimsoll Mark", and thankfully I can get reenergized by watching Dodgers baseball, Lakers basketball, and BYU football.  I also enjoy watching the same movies President Kimball watched so many years ago on Turner Classic Movies.  I even find relief by rolling outside and looking at the flowers in our front yard.  Thankfully, it doesn't take much to renew my energy and spirit which is a great gift.  How about you?



No comments: