Vol. 2, Issue 9
April 30, 2007
We're a month into baseball season now, and true fans everywhere sigh happily in the knowledge that there are five glorious months of baseball ahead, over one hundred and thirty games for their home team remaining, and many a warm summer evening sitting on the deck with a glass of iced tea and the radio on. As the moths flutter around the porch light, the fan settles into his lawn chair and smiles into the darkness of the backyard listening to the announcer and seeing in his mind's eye a small white sphere arcing slowly over the right field wall.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) SCHOLA NEWS - Upcoming Events page; Latin In A Week in Phoenix; Artesian Wells Classical Tutorials
2) COGITEM - Baseball, Time, and Eternity
3) DE ASTRIS - Vega
4) ANNO DOMINI - Third Sunday after Easter
5) SIC LOCUTUS - Yogi Berra
Upcoming Events page
If you visit Schola's homepage and look at the sidebar you'll notice a new addition: a link to the "Upcoming Events" page. Please take a look at what's coming up this summer.
Latin In A Week in Phoenix
On that upcoming events page, you'll notice that there is another Latin In A Week scheduled in Phoenix, AZ, the week of June 18-22. Follow the link there and read about LIAW; if our intensive Latin course interests you, please contact me.
Artesian Wells Classical Tutorials
Great Books 1 and Logic will be offered this fall by Aaron Wells, of Artesian Wells Classical Tutorials. Mr. Wells is a former Schola student, having gone through all four years of Great Books as well as logic, Rhetoric, and Latin. He was the "Official Schola Historian" and retains his title emeritus; he remains an icon of early Schola history. Mr. Wells graduated from New St. Andrews College in Moscow, ID (http://www.nsa.edu/) and is now teaching at Logos Christian Academy in Fallon, Nevada. If you are interested in online Great Books or Logic tutorials, I urge you to visit his website and then contact Mr. Wells (firstname.lastname@example.org). You won't be disappointed.
COGITEM -- Baseball, Time, and Eternity
"It breaks your heart. It was meant to break your heart." So begins a most glorious essay by Bart Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball and former professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature who wrote widely and variously on Dante and Spenser. Giamatti, like Dante and Spenser, knew about heartbreak; and Giamatti, like Dante and Spenser, knew that hearbreak is part of the glory of life.
Baseball, like Homer's Odyssey, is about returning home. The goal of every baserunner is to go "home". While the storms of life rack his bark and assail his soul, he struggles on against all odds because "home" is his goal. And when he is thrown out, or caught in a rundown, or forced out, it's the tragedy of not returning home, the pain at heart of dying away from the land of one's birth and family. Baseball is all about nostos as Homer tells it - the desire for returning home that marks the heart's desire of all wayfaring - and about nostalgia, the longing for home that may or may not be fulfilled but which drives a man ever on nonetheless.
Baseball, alone of all modern sports, has no clock. The clock is a hideous invention of modernity, designed to regulate us, to keep us always looking at "the time" rather than at the task to be accomplished. Football, basketball, hockey, all are dependent upon The Clock and when The Clock sounds its imperious call, all action must stop. But in baseball, the end of the game comes only when the narrative has reached its true conclusion; the end is determined by the action of the game, not by some arbitrary, Platonic limit. The ending of a good story is never determined by time or space limitations, but by the natural unfolding of events, and so is baseball.
This structure, determined not by time but by the events that alone should determine time, is teleological as history is teleological. History will end when God has determined that all things have unfolded as they should, and He knows what must pass. So in baseball, nine innings is not an arbitrary number, but a recognition that certain events must pass and the clock, which should simply help us measure the events, does so. It does not determine events, as in other sports. The tyranny of the clock in other sports is modernistic, like a factory whistle and punch clock. When the five o'clock whistle blows, you go home, whethter or not you've finished the job. But in the medieval tradition, the job alone determines when you go home, and so in baseball. Baseball is reflective of true time, of true teleology, of history as God tells its story, unlike all other sports.
Baseball, unlike any other sport, revels in the past, and knowledge of, and reflection on Baseball's past becomes part of any true fan's measure. He is no true fan who doesn't know who hit The Shot Heard Round The World, and that happened over fifty years ago. Other sports do have a history, true, and many know it, but in Baseball a familiarity with the past is essential, and just as in Scripture we are told to remember, remember, remember, so in Baseball, the essence of each new season is not just the bestial rush of excitement that fans of other sports crave, because they only live in the present, but rather it is the knowledge that, like the seasons themselves, the past will again come alive and be incarnate in the innings we watch and linger over and score in our books of memory.
Wander through any bookstore and simply measure by shelf length or book weight the relation of baseball books to books about other sports. And more to the point, notice how many books there are on the poetry, the inner grace, the life, of baseball. And then notice how the number of such books on other sports is relatively much smaller. Baseball is like flyfishing; it commends itself to the contemplative mind, the thoughtful soul; it encourages reflection, consideration, forethought, historical comparison, and so it calls forth books that do just those things.
Go to a baseball game and look at all the fans holding gloves in their hands, not just in hope of catching a foul ball but because of their instinctive identification with the men who play for us, and we in them. How many fans at a football game take a football with them? How many hockey fans carry a stick? Precious few, but baseball fans know the covenantal identity of fan with player, and far more baseball fans go home to play a little catch with their sons than football fans do. Oh sure, some football fans do throw the pigskin around and its a pleaure, but Baseball is called The National Sport for a reason: more people play, and can play baseball on their own, and more people do, and have done so for far longer than any other American sport. Forms of baseball were played at Valley Forge and so were present in the crucible of the forge of liberty. Baseball is American more than any other sport because it is democratic in the best sense - its a sport that promotes and encourages identity.
Football does have its ferocious defenders. So did the partisans of Green and Blue in ancient Constantinople, and so fierce was the loyalty that civil war broke out and had to be suppressed by Justinian. But Baseball's lovers are people everywhere who have one love beyond their team (great though that may be) and that is love of the game itself. When a baseball fan comes through the concourse and gets his first glimpse of the green of the playing field, there arises in his heart some small shadow of what we shall all feel when we see Paradise, some echo of what we felt in the green of Eden, some resonance with the Sabbath of Eternity, where the remaining fans smile on each other with brotherly affection as Time itself goes into Extra Innings.
DE ASTRIS -- Vega
The moon will be full on Tuesday night (more precisely, very early Wednesday morning), so its light is washing out most of the stars in the southern half of the sky. But look high in the northeast late in the evening to see bright Vega, the bright star in the constellation Lyra and the fifth brightest star in the heavens. Vega comes from a word meaning "eagle" (or "vulture") in Arabic and it so-called because the entire constellation used to be seen as an eagle or vulture so the star took its name from the constellation. Vega is a brilliant blue-white star ("pale sapphire" says one old text) and is about 25 light years away. (If the sun were one foot away from the earth, Vega would be several hundred miles away.) It rises about sunset in the north-northeast on the first day of May, so Tuesday night at sunset we'll have beautiful sights: the full moon rising in east and Vega rising in the north (it may take close to an hour after sunset for Vega to get high enough above the horizon for you to see it). In the ancient Roman world, Vega's setting just before sunrise was the sign of the beginning of Autumn.
ANNO DOMINI -- Third Sunday after Easter
Yesterday was the third Sunday after Easter (also called the fourth Sunday of Easter, counting inclusive of Easter Sunday). The Collect in the Book of Common Prayer asks God to "grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow such things as are agreeable to the same," a reference to the newly baptized. Historically Easter was the time new Christians were baptized; for example, Augustine and his son were baptized on Easter of 387 although his conversion took place in the previous year.
"Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical."
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
"You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."
"I didn't really say everything I said."