David B Hart on “the metaphysical meaning of baseball“:
I know there are those who will accuse me of exaggeration when I say this, but, until baseball appeared, humans were a sad and benighted lot, lost in the labyrinth of matter, dimly and achingly aware of something incandescently beautiful and unattainable, something infinitely desirable shining up above in the empyrean of the ideas; but, throughout most of the history of the race, no culture was able to produce more than a shadowy sketch of whatever glorious mystery prompted those nameless longings.
Note that this isn’t just a sportswriter losing himself in lofty/weepy rhetoric or a satirist engaging in arch irony. Hart’s a serious writer on religion, and First Things (where this essay appears) is all about phrases like “sub specie aeternitatis.*” So they mean every word.
This essay did remind me, briefly, of Stephen Jay Gould’s confession of faith in his essay on the relationship between art and science, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”:
I am not, personally, a believer or a religious man in any sense of institutional commitment or practice. But I have enormous respect for religion, and the subject has always fascinated me, beyond almost all others (with a few exceptions, like evolution, paleontology, and baseball).
Substitute mathematics and poetry for evolution and paleontology and I am right there**. In fact, for me, at least in childhood, Catholicism and baseball are inseparable, beautiful, impractical dreams.
* This is a phrase of Spinoza’s (I don’t know if he invented it, but he used it a lot) that means “from the point of view of eternity.”
** Okay, I really like film and basketball, too.