March 31, 2017

THIS IS THE YEAR!:

ON TIME, BASEBALL, AND THE CRUEL HOPE OF OPENING DAY : MARK KINGWELL MEASURES OUT LIFE INNING BY INNING (Mark Kingwell, 3/31/17, LitHub)

[B]aseball teaches a simpler and more profound lesson. The game is its own kind of Sabbath, a bracketing of time's pressure. We enter the stadium, a park within a city or town, and so suspend the tyranny of chronos. All games are such suspensions, or have the capacity to be so, but only baseball refuses to allow the clock inside the logic of its performance. The contest begins at a fixed point, true, but from that moment on all measuring is done with actions, not seconds or minutes.

We all need time out of time, especially as the tyranny of the clock grows more insistent. Rare is the person today who does not literally carry time around all day every day, in the form of a wristwatch or a smartphone. Clocks wake us and order our days in waking moments. We stand in danger of losing that sense of genuine leisure which, as Aristotle argued two and a half millennia ago, allows us to contemplate the divine. [...]

When Opening Day arrives, we enter the gorgeous, sustaining period of the 162-game season, and begin our annual communion with the gamboling and hard-striving boys of summer. We all know it will end, and that this renewal is poignant. I don't know if T.S. Eliot was a baseball fan, but his claim that April is the cruelest month, "mixing memory and desire," is something any baseball fan can appreciate.

I recall, as I do every year, cold Opening Day games in Toronto, some with snow still on the ground, or listening to a faraway contest on the front stoop, with grilled hot dogs and beer to create our own little park in the city. Time collapses at such moments, all games become one game, and the eternally renewed hope of sports is mixed, inevitably, with feelings of sadness and longing and nostalgia, all the things that make baseball what it is, the most poetic game we know.

"The game doesn't change the way you sleep or wash your face or chew your food," the narrator notes in Don DeLillo's novella Pafko at the Wall. "It changes nothing but your life." Yes. And it all begins with time...

Posted by at March 31, 2017 6:32 AM

  

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