October 01, 2012
This & That
-- Richard Brookhiser in latest National Review.
So around 10pm-ish the other night I turned on the Reds game and saw Homer Bailey was pitching in the 9th inning. Odd to see him pitching that late but I figured they wanted to get him a shutout. Didn't think that was too smart given you want him fresh for the playoffs but I suppose shutouts don't grow on trees. The games are meaningless now that the Reds have clinched so I half-watched and half-read my iPad. Then I heard a Reds announcer say, after a Pirate out, that that's the way all Pirate hitters have looked tonight. Which "caught my ear" since it seemed a sweeping statement. Then a pitch or so later I hear him mention the Pirates haven't got any hits. What? Down goes the iPad and suddenly the game has my full attention. I turn up the sound and check the line score on a baseball app. NO hits! Holy cow. But then, ironically, instead of watching the game I grab my phone and text my brother and a friend, telling them to turn on the TV and watch the Reds. Bailey then completes the no-hitter with a pop-up to a wide-smiling Brandon Philips and the celebration ensues. It's been 24 years since a Reds pitcher last pitched a no-hitter.
But there's no getting around the huge sense of loss that death brings to the living. And, as Chesterton wrote, death is a "monstrous transformation." Having grown accustomed to our bodies, and having identified them as "us" (body and soul being joined), the sudden turn of the body into mush and then dust is a traumatic thing to anticipate in ourselves or those we love.
I feel slightly less prejudiced against death since some of my best friends are dead, or more precisely folks like Chesterton speak to me though dead via the words on a page. It's ironic that Chesterton argued for a "democracy of the dead" -- to listen to those who have gone before us -- given that now he himself is one of the dead.
I sometimes think back to the seeming presumptuous when I lectured our religion teacher concerning sexual intercourse. I, having no experience whatsoever, told him after class that I thought it impolitic of him to suggest that one shouldn't get into heavy petting lest it lead to what no "red-blooded American male" can stop, and that is full intercourse. It seemed to me to give a way out to males who were in the position of being on the edge of orgasm. Tell a man he can't hold it and he likely can't. But perhaps my comment wasn't so dumb, inexperienced as it was, given what I read from Chesterton today, "Knowledge and innocence are both excellent things...But it is right that knowledge should be the servant and innocence the master....Dickens responded to a profound human sentiment (the sentiment that has made saints and the sanctity of children) when he made the gentler and less-travelled type - the type which moderates and controls."
Ultimately there seems to be no way to argue with a person who argues from experience. There's no comeback to "you haven't gone what I've gone through." I was fascinated by a Theresa Borchard video in which she admits to Catholic cafeteria-ism on the theory that her first priority is to stay alive. Hard to disagree.
A friend of mine was changed by his reading "Sacrilege" by Leon Podles, with its harsh view of the church and seminaries. After that he was done with organized religion. Nothing is abstract for him; there is no 'cerebral detachment'. He brought up the Sack of Constantinople like it occurred yesterday. I told him his beef was with Jesus since He left humans in charge. He didn't have to ascend to Heaven. (Although that's not to say Jesus is absent.)
So, we employees take surveys indicating our general satisfaction with the job environment, and it's surreal how seriously they take these "engagement" surveys. Our boss lamented how back in the day these used to be timed during quarter-end, our busy time. He also lamented how someone can wake up in a foul mood and give bad scores. It sure doesn't seem like they think much of us if they think we can be influenced by something as trivial as waking up on the wrong side of the bed or a bad menstrual cycle. We can objectively provide input. I don't think my Gallup survey results would've changed one iota all year and I'm hardly a paragon of maturity.
Apparently there's a desire (five of 22 of us suggested it, which apparently makes for a groundswell) for more get-togethers like the bowling gig. Our boss was asking for other ideas and young Ben offered "3-D Dodge ball", basically dodge ball on trampolines. Youth, sweet youth. Nancy suggested a house of horrors (doesn't our place of business qualify?). Rose suggested a movie, which sounds more up my alley. Introvert that I am, I thought, "How about we all read silently to ourselves one afternoon?"
Heather King: "People are the problem and people are the solution."