This week’s question: Do secular settings like a baseball game lead us to the spiritual dimension of life? If so, what are those for you? In what ways does the secular lead you to a deeper spiritual understanding?
AMY MARTIN, Executive Director, Earth Rhythms; Writer/Editor, Moonlady Media
Baseball works for spiritual metaphor on many levels. Attending the game removes you from the ordinary to a place of soaring architecture, often open to the heavens. It opens with a ritualistic song. Specially dressed leaders enact motions that take skill and ascendancy, allowing attendees to experience vicariously through them. Often attendees bond by moving and speaking in unison. The game takes places in a setting where time stretches out and there is chance for contemplation.
The spiritual who are more naturally inclined find sustaining metaphor in the mountain that emerges from deep in the mantle and reaches to the sky, seeming so eternal and immense, yet eventually to erode to rubble. From the river that separates into many channels, that shatters into millions of rivulets as it cascades over the waterfall edge, only to rejoin in oneness. “Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it,” Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, which devotes extensive space to the metaphor of water.
Yet spiritual metaphor thrives even in the urban midst, in the gardener who feels a deep interaction with the life force, coaxing beauty and sustenance from the soil. In the artist, the writer, the scientist, who release control, who submit to the flow, and allow beauty and discovery to emerge. Metaphor is everywhere and has no agenda. No wonder so many seek it out.
A tip of the hat to Daniel Kanter for this question. He sent along a link about New York University President John Sexton’s book, Baseball as a Road to God.
Sexton has taught on a course on this subject for more than a decade, where, as this review suggests, he uses “baseball to illustrate the elements of a spiritual life.” I have not read his book, but the link I am sending along — along with this E.J. Dionne column — report that he uses writings about the game, its characters and its rituals to suggest that “we can touch the spiritual dimension of life” through baseball.
His co-author, former Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant, put his own twist on this in a CBS essay. Oliphant talked about “the special feelings in seemingly secular settings that suggest the spiritual. The feelings can be as powerfully simple as having a catch with your dad, or watching the St. Louis Cardinals come back twice from being one strike away from elimination in the World Series, or actually hearing Jackie Robinson breathe as he sprinted home.
Now, some of us who are Texas Rangers fans may equate watching the Cardinals come back twice from being one strike away from losing the World Series — to us — as a near-death experience. But there is a point here worth discussing: