If a table tennis ball was traveling directly towards the middle of the opponents side, at the speed of light, weighed 2.7 grams, was 40 mm in diameter, but the table was on the moon, would the ball still hit the edge? Is it a matter of cosmic destiny that wins and losses are decided by slight changes in speed, spin, time, and space? Have balls that are lost under furniture been devoured by black holes? Can the distance between opponents and the speed of loop drives be measured absolutely, or are these measurements of space and time merely relative?
It certainly seems like club players can quickly set up tables, but these same tables are often frozen in time when it’s time to put them away. When doing multi-ball training, a gravitational force has been observed that draws balls to the bottoms of players feet. Some ardent players have witnessed apparent time travel. They experience several hours of table tennis as probably being about an hour and a half. The theory of relativity may account for the differing perceptions of ball speed between twenty year old and seventy year old players. The relative motion of seniors compared to younger players surely comes into play.
The actual definition of cosmic is “something related to the universe.” Ping pong may not seem to affect the universe, but there are some universal truths revealed every time two players face off. These truths about human nature are a little easier to grasp than the physics of table tennis and the universe.
- People are universally competitive. I’ve had a number of people attempt to deny this, and it is true that some players don’t seem too concerned about wins and losses. It may be that they are competing with themselves, or are competitive in some not so obvious way, but if they are alive, they’re competing.
- People are generally happier when they are moving. They are also happier if they are frequently around other people. Table tennis meets both of these needs.
- We have far less control of life than we imagine. There’s nothing like a spinning ping pong ball to prove that we can’t always control life in a out of control world.
- There are no easy answers. This is as true in life as it is in table tennis. Sometimes players win and don’t know how they won. Other times, players struggle endlessly and fall short of their goals. The absurdity of the human condition is quite accurately displayed in table tennis.
- Miracles happen. It can’t be proven that any one shot or athletic achievement was influenced by divine intervention, but I’ve always thought that it was awfully hard to be an atheist after making a great and improbable shot. Some shots are simply lucky, but there is a element of the divine that’s there if you look.
- Our table tennis experience can reflect our life experience. The greatest enemy to playing well is fear, just like in life.