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Mental gymnastics? 头脑体操

中国日报网 2019-07-16 14:58

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “No mental gymnastics is needed to figure this puzzle out.”

My comments:

A jigsaw puzzle? A crossword puzzle?

Whatever it may be, “this puzzle” is very easy to figure out. That’s why “no mental gymnastics” is needed.

In other words, you don’t have to rack your brain or anything like that. You don’t have to stretch or twist your mental muscles, so to speak. You don’t have to torture yourself in the head.

Gymnastics is a sport in which we see athletes performing tumbling and acrobatic feats, feats that look impossibly difficult to the untrained audience. Take the somersault on the balance beam, for example. Or a double somersault on the floor.

Gymnastics are physical exercises, of course, useful to strengthen muscles, improve agility and coordination. They’re difficult tasks. Disciplined training is needed if you want to perform them.

Mental gymnastics?

Metaphorically speaking, mental gymnastics refer to exercises that are equally daunting and difficult – only they’re in the realm of the mind. Sherlock Holmes the fictional detective in Conan Doyle mystery novels, for example, has to perform a lot of mental gymnastics in order to solve any of those murder cases.


In our example, on the other hand, when someone says “no mental gymnastics is needed to figure this puzzle out”, the degree of difficulty involved is minimal.

In other words, the answer is obvious. The conclusion or solution is easy to reach. No twists or turns, no traps or tricks. No complexities. No intricacies. No mazes. No labyrinths.

In other words, the answer is straightforward.

Still in other words, you don’t have to be too cute and clever to work this thing out.

All right, no more explanation necessary. Here are a few media examples of the phrase “mental gymnastics”:

1. General growing interest in the game, which has gotten national television exposure, and a more sophisticated approach to training, has upped the Sangamon Table Tennis Club numbers to about 24, from a one-time low of four.

It’s the semi-finals of the “A” bracket of the Sangamon Table Tennis Club’s fall tournament, and a couple of heavyweights have the attention of most everyone in the gym at Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church.

Rick Goertz and Sonny Henderson both are rated players, according to USATable Tennis, the national governing body of the sport, and the match is a blend of quality play and showmanship. It seems like every point garners a reaction or a self-deprecating comment from one of the two.

“That’s too good, and I’m too old and slow to get that,” says Henderson of a shot that eludes him.

“Come on! Find that ball and dig it out,” Goertz implores after his shot goes wide.

As the ball momentarily dances on the net and lands on Goertz’s side, Henderson lets out a wall-shaking exclamation. “What? What?” asks Goertz mockingly, to laughter from the crowd.

After a second-game win, Henderson, who prevails in the best-of-five series three games to none, says to no one in particular, “So difficult, yet so fun.”

Henderson, a 55-year-old third-shift housekeeping supervisor at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, goes on to beat his fellow Bradley University club member, Gene Szeto, in the finals — also a sweep. Szeto, who used to train annually with the Chinese provincial table tennis team, doesn’t practice as much, Henderson says, yet has a higher rating than Henderson.

Szeto, 30, says his training in Beijing — three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon — included a coach feeding him multiple balls.

“You’d practice the same stroke over and over again,” Szeto says, “until it became instinctive.

“For me, it’s still a fun game. Someone out there is always better. That was the case today. I was the highest rated player here, but I didn’t win.”

For decades, the STTC had a nomadic existence in Springfield, with stops at the YMCA, the McFarland Zone Center, the Washington Park Pavilion and Sangamon State University before moving to Douglas UMC several years ago.

With six tables, two rows of three, this setting is practically airy.

“Part of it is a better location,” says Tim Kemp, who on this particular day is busy running the tournament. “When you don’t have room to play, it is difficult.”

General growing interest in the game, which has gotten national television exposure, and a more sophisticated approach to training, also has upped this club numbers to about 24, from a one-time low of four, Kemp adds.

The club, which got its moniker after moving to Douglas UMC, and was a marriage of two clubs. Now, STTC members pay annual dues and play on Wednesday evenings. In addition to the fall tournament, which is unsanctioned — winners get T-shirts, not prize money — the club has a spring tournament.

Proponents say table tennis is attractive because it’s age and gender neutral, and there’s a skill level for everyone.

“As a sport, no one can come up with a better one-on-one competition,” Goertz says. “I could show you a 6-year-old, an 80-year-old and a guy in a wheelchair that could beat you.”

The club also has produced two scholarship players. Brad Kendle and Ryan Driskill, both of Taylorville, honed their skills at STTC and the Hillsboro Table Tennis Club. This year, they are members of Lindenwood University’s first-ever varsity team. (The St. Charles, Mo.-based school also competes in bowling and cycling, sanctioned by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.)

Mock if you will, but Kendle, 24, says table tennis, with its physical stamina and its mental gymnastics, is “by far the most difficult sport I’ve played.”

- Table tennis on the rise, SJ-R.com, November 16, 2008.

2. I have come up with a cunning way to save money on my taxes. This year, I will simply tell New York’s tax authorities they should consider it a privilege to have me in the state – one they should jolly well pay for. After all, if I hadn’t moved to New York, they wouldn’t be getting a dime out of me. My decision to base my personal headquarters in NYC and pay taxes here, rather than one of the many other cities I vaguely considered living in, means I deserve an enormous subsidy.

Impeccable logic, right? New York governor Andrew Cuomo certainly seems to think so. Amazon’s decision to split its second headquarters across Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia, has led to considerable backlash. Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned about the uber-rich behemoth exacerbating gentrification, perpetuating unethical business practices and receiving enormous taxpayer subsidies.

According to Cuomo, this anger is entirely unwarranted; he recently responded to accusations that New York had essentially given one of the richest companies in the world $1bn to open up in the city with an angry op-ed explaining this was absolutely not the case. Au contraire, morons: “New York doesn’t give Amazon $100m. Amazon gives New York $900m.” This revenue, he explains, is from “state and city taxes, including income taxes”.

Cuomo’s mental gymnastics are impressive, but he isn’t fooling anyone. New Yorkers aren’t pushovers and a battle is under way to keep Amazon from colonizing the city. On 14 November, a day after Amazon announced its New York HQ, local officials, union members and activists gathered in Long Island City to protest against the deal, which many consider to have been secretly engineered by Cuomo and the New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, behind the city council’s back. “If we had known what was going on six months ago or 10 months ago, we could have stopped this a long time ago,” state senator Michael Gianaris said at the rally.

Activists are still hoping to stop Amazon’s New York HQ from materializing or, at the very least, renegotiate a deal that is more favorable to the city. You know, a deal that perhaps gives more thought to funding the city’s crumbling public transit system than ensuring Jeff Bezos has an onsite helipad.

On Monday protesters marched through Amazon’s midtown book store before gathering in front of the Long Island City courthouse for a rally. “The people of Queens deserve better and we demand better and we will march forever until we get what we deserve,” council member Jimmy Van Bramer told the rally. Van Bramer said elected city officials would not stop protesting until the Amazon deal had been renegotiated.

- New Yorkers won’t give up the fight to stop Amazon colonising our city, by Arwa Mahdawi, TheGuardian.com, Nobember 30, 2018.

3. Only a man who is, like, really smart could perform mental gymnastics at the level President Trump has attained over the past few days.

On Saturday, Trump declared that The New York Times committed a “virtual act of Treason” by reporting on a U.S. cyber campaign against Russia.

Mere seconds later, he proclaimed that the supposedly treasonous report was “ALSO, NOT TRUE!”

Thus, in Trump’s telling, did the journalists commit the capital offense of divulging false state secrets?

During his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, meanwhile, Trump denied that internal Trump campaign polling showed him trailing: “Those polls don’t exist.”

Trump then fired his campaign pollsters for leaking the supposedly nonexistent polls. (This was similar to Trump calling Bob Woodward a writer of “fiction” while simultaneously venting at his aides for “leaking” this supposed fiction to Woodward.)

During the ABC interview, Trump also said that if he received dirt on his opponent from a foreign country, he would accept it without calling the FBI - and that his FBI director was “wrong” to say the FBI should know of such offers. Soon thereafter, Trump told “Fox & Friends” a contrary view: “Of course” he would tell the FBI.

This followed by a few days Trump’s claim that “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me get elected.” Minutes later, he delivered a second opinion: “Russia did not help me get elected.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Trump’s ability to function is a matter of much dispute, but if the ability to hold opposing thoughts in mind is a measure of intelligence, Trump is a very stable genius indeed. Nobody contradicts himself as forcefully, fluently and frequently.

- Dana Milbank: Trump’s mental gymnastics are amazing, Herald-Dispatch.com, June 19, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Another point goes begging? 没销路


Having an edge? 占优势


Vertiginous times? 兴奋又忐忑


In a good place? 情况有所改善