Cliff Lee and David B

by Andrea Elizabeth

My curiosity about what David B. Hart is up to and my subsequent curiosity on whether Cliff Lee is going to stay with the Rangers (probably not) met each other in the former’s First Things article, “A Perfect Game”. He is a delight to read. However, I’m glad he identifies his views as Platonic, and not Orthodox in the piece. My intuition lines up more with his Buddhist and Biblical comparisons with baseball, which seem more incarnational than his elusive Platonist forms.

In his later philosophy, Heidegger liked to indulge in eccentric etymologies because he was certain that there are truths deeply hidden in language. It is one of the more beguilingly magical aspects of his thought and therefore—to my mind—one of the more convincing. Consider, for instance, the wonderful ambiguity one finds in the word invention when one considers its derivation. The Latin invenire means principally “to find,” “to encounter,” or (literally) “to come upon.” Only secondarily does it mean “to create” or “to originate.” Even in English, where the secondary sense has now entirely displaced the primary, the word retained this dual connotation right through the seventeenth century. This pleases me for two reasons. The first is that, as an instinctive Platonist, I naturally believe that every genuine act of human creativity is simultaneously an innovation and a discovery, a marriage of poetic craft and contemplative vision that captures traces of eternity’s radiance in fugitive splendors here below by translating our tacit knowledge of the eternal forms into finite objects of reflection, at once strange and strangely familiar. The second is that the word’s ambiguity helps me to formulate my intuitions regarding the ultimate importance of baseball.

There are things I recognize in the above as pertaining to being made in the image of God, but the pathos and melancholy he describes throughout is about the elusiveness. One can tell he identifies with the batter in his descriptions and how low the odds are that he’ll hit a home run when he comes to bat. While I was watching the playoffs this year, I was identifying with the pitcher. Here is my psychological evaluation of Mr. Hart.

He has a very complicated relationship with his father and thus with God. The pitcher to him is the powerful almighty who is trying to trip him up, but if he’s good enough, he can anticipate and use the pitcher’s power for his own ends. He can’t win his approval, but he can beat him. This possibility sustains him even when most efforts fail. These failures inspire him to constantly outdo himself. Hence DBH’s over achievement in reading and writing. I think his writing can be classified as pretty consistent home runs though. Face to face, maybe not so much, which is what he’s upset about with his dad.

The pitcher to me has to be constantly aware of everyone and what they are doing. Pitching is like serving dinner on time while making sure the laundry’s done and the pool filter behind my back isn’t getting clogged up with leaves. One miscalculation or negligence will ruin everything and it’s “Good-bye baseball” as my favorite announcer, Dick Risenhoover, RIP, used to say.

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