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Midsummer Night Dreaming 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last night was nice, I took a break and watched the MLB All Star Game. Baseball has always been a big part of my life but recently I have been so busy that I have been scarcely doing more than checking the box scores. But then there is nothing wrong with that, as Fox Mulder told Dana Scully in the X-Files episode The Unnatural  when Scully told him that she couldn’t believe that he had been reading about baseball: “Reading the box scores, Scully. You’d like it. It’s like the Pythogorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all of baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947. It’s like the numbers talk to be, the comfort me. They tell me that even though lots of things change some things remain the same….” 

Baseball has always been a part of my life, I have recounted that many times on this site. It is something that has grounded me throughout life ever since I could remember, and like it does the fictional Fox Mulder, baseball reminds me that in an era of massive change that some things, some really good things, remain the same, and it is reassuring as Sharon Olds wrote, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” 

I know that some people find baseball boring, it isn’t fast enough, or violent enough for their taste. It’s not played on a standard sized gridiron or court, it’s not bound by the same rules of space and time as other sports. Theoretically a baseball game could last for eternity, just as the foul lines that angle out from home plate theoretically exetend to infinity, while any statistic in the game can be plotted to the most accurate decimal. It is a curious blend of sport, life, mathematics, philosophy, metaphysics, and faith, and it is a part of who we are as Americans. It is woven in to the fabric of the country, soldiers in Blue and Gray broke up the monotony of camp life during the Civil War, it helped people get through world wars and the Great Depression, and when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier it signaled the beginning of the end for Jim Crow. Kids played it in farm fields, on sandlots, and in big city neighborhoods with makeshift balls, sticks and whatever they could use as gloves. There were times when it captivated the nation even when cities were burning and wars were raging. There is something magical about a pennant race, a perfect game, the crack of a bat and a ball that travels into the center field seats. 


On a visit to Capital Hill during a contentious legislative session, the legendary Negro League player and manager stopped to talk about what it would be like if instead of preaching virulent hatred and division, the television was showing the great catch made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series. O’Neil grew up in the Jim Crow era, in segreation, and played his best ball when he was not allowed to play in the Major Leagues, or even enter certain restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, or public rest rooms simply because he was black. But he never became bitter, and he never stopped working for full equality nor continued to work for peace, he told the people watching a television which had the news on: “If Willie Mays was up there, people would stop making laws. They would stop running. They would stop arguing about big things, little things. No Democrat or Republican, no black or white, no North or South. Everybody just stop, watch the TV, watch Willie Mays make that catch. That’s baseball man.” 


Me with California Angels Manager Lefty Phillips in 1970

When I watch the All Star Game I am reminded for playing catch with my dad, playing in little league and going to ball games to see my heroes play in those, lush, green, and beautiful diamonds, well except for the Astro Turf ones. We can thank whatever deity convinced baseball executive to go back to grass that most of those are gone. In the movie Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones, playing the reclusive writer Terrence Mann, modeled on J.D. Salinger said to Ray Kinsella, a character played by Kevin Costner, “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has been rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that was once good, and what could be again.” 

Well last night the American League beat the National League 4-2. Zach Britton, the closer for the Baltimore Orioles who I got to know a bit when he pitched in Norfolk got the save. My favorite teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Orioles lead their divisions going into the second half of the season. It was, despite all the chaos, violence, political division, and uncertainty in the world, a perfect misdsummer night. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve +

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Filed under Baseball, faith, History, Political Commentary

No Losers Allowed: The Hallmark of the American Church

Now, clubs and cliques, they choose and pick
And they make their interviews
Screen the undesirables
And turn down clowns and fools
But Jesus died for sinners
Losers and winners
Yes, it’s proven by His love for me and you

I have been writing a lot this week about the greed, self-centeredness and dehumanizing aspects of much of the American church. I seems that with each article that I wrote that another thought would flow and another article would be born. Now  I promise that this will be the last of these for a while, unless something else triggers me.

I know to some people that these articles are very uncomfortable because they challenge something that many hold dear. Certainly that is not the Gospel.  But, rather it is the very comfortable and insulated lives that we lead in churches which have entirely bought the crass materialism of our culture, and which seek brazen political power rather than caring for the least, the lost and the lonely.

This has been epidemic since the 1980s and has infected churches and denominations across the theological, social and political spectrum of our country. However, my real Christian formation comes from the 1960s and 1970s. I am a relic by today’s standards and I don’t mind it. There is s scene in the movie Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner’s character tracks down a writer played by James Earl Jones. I kind of reminds me of some of the looks I get when I spout ideas that are to say the least counter-cultural, but more often are an attack on the current system.

Terence Mann: Oh, my God.

Ray Kinsella: What?

Terence Mann: You’re from the sixties.

Ray Kinsella: [bashfully] Well, yeah, actually…

Terence Mann: [spraying at Ray with a insecticide sprayer] Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There’s no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!

But I digress…

Back in 1976 a Christian rock group called Daniel Amos from Calvary Chapel released a little song called Losers and Winners http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J520qyIUHME which when you come to think of it is one of the most amazingly theologically correct songs ever written. Back then I had the album that it came on both on LP and 8 Track. Thankfully I was able to get a CD of it a few years ago.

The song has come back to me in a big way during the past week as I have watched watched Christian leaders and their followers delve ever deeper into the pit of Hell known as the Prosperity Gospel. Yesterday I wrote about churches and pastors that ignore, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The fact is that many, maybe even most churches are more social clubs with a religious veneer than they are places for those beaten down by the world to come for solace, help, or even salvation.

That has been in stark contrast to the men who have been regulars at my little chapel service at the staff college. I have had the blessing of having three Lebanese Christian officers attend over the past two months. They return to Lebanon at the end of the week, but all of them have stated their disappointment with the American church, a church that they do not believe cares about Arab Christians and is more concerned with money and politics than the Gospel. I all miss them because they have helped bring a joy back to celebrating the Eucharist that I have not felt since my time in Iraq. They will go home to a country oppressed on all sides where they are the targets of not just the various types of Islamic extremists, but the American supported Israeli military. A military which many American Christians believe can do no wrong.

When it was released the song went pretty much unnoticed outside of the few that really liked the less than conventional message of Daniel Amos.

The song really is amazing because the song is more true to the Gospel so much of what is called “Christian” now, especially some of the “praise” songs that preach the militant and often hateful theology of Dominionism.

I spent many years in churches and unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for me, I have never really been in the “in crowd.” Now that I am older I really don’t want to be in the “in crowd” if it means being less than Christian in the way that I get there.

For me church is not a place to enhance my social status, nor is it a place simply to network or a place that I can use to enhance my political or social agendas. It is simple a place where believers gather to worship as well as share the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a place of refuge for all people, but especially for the wounded, the outcast and the broken.  Likewise it is a place that even unbelievers can come and be welcomed without prejudice. Didn’t Jesus say “come to me you who are weary and bear heavy burdens and I will give you rest?”

To me the church is not about being the political platform of any party or political leader, but being the redemptive voice of Jesus the Christ to a broken world.

Unfortunately now the church is viewed more for what it is against and who it rejects rather than the one who calls the broken, who will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a flickering flame.

Do you give the highest place
To someone ’cause you like his face
And turn aside those you deem less than yourself?
Well, love that is natural
Can be less than satisfactual
For we all are one, no less than anyone else

As a result people are fleeing the church or if they were not a part of the church simply turning their back on it. The “Nones” or those with no religious preference are the fastest growing segment of American faith and religion.

The message that the church is actually teaching today is a diametric opposite of the early church and it would be unrecognizable to Christians of many eras. The church is obsessed with its own power, privileges and pre-eminence and this is particularly true of its most influential preachers. Today I read about televangelist Crefo Dollar begging his congregation and television viewers for over 60 million dollars buy a state of the art Gulfstream G650 private jet so he can “spread God’s grace around the world.” But he is not alone in such behavior.

If the church today has an unspoken message it goes something like this:

We welcome you to church…If you look like us, if you hold similar political views, if you have money, if you are attractive, if your presence will benefit us… Our doors are open to you if you fit the criteria that we decide and unless you are like us, agree with us or are not of a group of people that we have determined cannot enter heaven you are welcome.

Another verse of Losers and Winners says:

Do you hail the gifted ones
And the others do you shun?
Do you speak to only those you chose?
Well, God’s love, it has no bounds
Has no ups, and it has no downs
Goes out to those who win and to those who lose

That is not just me talking but it is what polls published by the Evangelical Christian Barna Group attest. The terms used to describe Christianity are: Hypocritical, anti-homosexual, insincere, sheltered and too political. Another Barna study dealing with why young people are leaving the church included that nearly 25% of young people said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” while 20% said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” while 22% said that “church is like a country club, only for insiders” and 36% said that they were unable “to ask my most pressing life questions in church.”  That survey was of young people of Christian backgrounds, not the unchurched.

The fact is that our obnoxious, arrogant, materialistic political and theologically insipid version of Christianity is causing great harm both inside and outside the church. It is not redemptive it is selfish and power hungry. It is not open, it is closed. We are losing our young people and those outside the church don’t want any part of us. Can you blame them? I don’t.

The funny thing is the long haired, Jesus people musicians of Daniel Amos figured this out close to 40 years ago. But then maybe they read and took seriously the message of Jesus. Maybe we should as well.

Peace

Padre Steve+

P.S. Expect some more Gettysburg and Civil War articles soon, some about baseball and some other interesting and hopefully less controversial subjects.

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Filed under christian life, faith, history, middle east, Religion

Baseball and My Life: A Spiritual Journey

“Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.” Jackie Robinson Baseball Has Done It

I feel closeness to God at the ballpark that after Iraq is hard for me to find in many other places.  For me there is a mystery, magic about a ballpark that just isn’t there for the other sports.  With the opening of baseball season I am soaking in the pleasantness of the game.  The past two nights I have had the television on with baseball games.  It is so much more peaceful and edifying than the deluge of political talk and reality shows that are the staple of entertainment now days.

For me the other sports can grab my momentary attention but because of their nature cause them to be merely ordinary and occasionally interesting.  Baseball is another matter, it is more than a game. As George Will said “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.” For me baseball is a metaphor for life, a spiritual experience and a game that mirrors life and faith in many ways. For me this goes back to childhood.

As a kid my dad made me learn the fundamentals of the game and whether we were attending a game in person, watching one on television or playing catch, pepper or practicing infield or pitching in the back yard or in a park, dad was all about the game.  Of course he was the same way with football, hockey, basketball and golf, but the sport that he seemed most passionate about was baseball.  As a kid dad was a Cincinnati Reds fan and as we moved West he became a solid San Francisco Giants fan.

 

My mom went along to many games while we were in Anaheim and she lives and dies with the Giants. My mom was a Navy Wife and back then there were not nearly the support structures that we have today and Navy wives had to be wear many hats.  One of those hats was being my chauffeur and number one fan. When my dad was deployed to Vietnam when we were in Stockton she would take me to my Little League games and shuttle me and my friends to Billy Herbert Field to see the Stockton Ports.

My dad’s mother, my grandmother who hailed from the hollers of West Virginia was a die hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I still wonder how a woman from West Virginia became a Dodgers’ fan but she was incredibly independent.  My grandfather was killed in a trucking accident when my dad was a small child leaving Granny a widow with two young boys to raise.

She was a single parent and for a while lived with family as she established herself. It was the late 1930s and she went to work, raised her two boys and bought her own house.  Unlike most people in West Virginia at that time she was a Republican. This was long before West Virginia ever voted for a Republican either President or statewide office. True to form Granny was a Dodgers fan in a land of Reds, Indians and Pirates fans, fierce and independent.  I have to admire her perseverance but as a Giants fan I cannot fathom her being a fan of the Evil Dodgers. Despite having fallen under the spell of the Dark Lords of Chavez Ravine Granny was a real baseball fan. Any time you went to Granny’s house and there was a game on, the television was tuned in to it. When she visited us in Texas in the early 1990s we went to a Texas Rangers game but it was called because of tornados and severe thunder storms.

I can say that thanks to my dad, mom and grandmother that I was immersed in baseball from an early age and when we got to a place where dad could take us to ball games on a regular basis he did.

Dad always made sure that we got to see baseball wherever we lived. In 1967 he took us to see the Seattle Pilots during their first and only season in that fair city before they went to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.  In the elementary schools of those days many our teachers would put the playoff and World’s Series games on the TV as many of those games were played during daylight hours.  I remember watching Bob Gibson pitch when the Cardinals played against the Red Sox in the 1967 series.  It was awesome to see that man pitch.   I remember the Amazing Mets upsetting the Orioles in 1969 and the Orioles take down the Reds in 1970. I will never forget the 1970 All Star Game where Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse at home plate for the winning run and the great dynasty teams of the 1970s, especially the Reds and the Athletics who dominated much of that decade and the resurgence of the Yankees in the summer that the Bronx burned.

When we were stationed in Long Beach California dad had us at Anaheim stadium all the time.  I imagine that we attended at least 20 games there in 1970 and another 25-30 in 1971 as well as a couple at Dodger stadium that year.  We met a lot of the Angel players at community events and before the games. I entered the “My Favorite Angel” contest and my entry was picked as a runner up. This netted me two seats behind the plate and having Dick Enberg announced my name on the radio.  I wrote about Jim Spencer a Gold Glove First Baseball who later played for the Yankees.  I still have a hat from that team with numerous autographs on the inside of the bill including Sandy Alomar, Jim Spencer, Jim Fregosi, Chico Ruiz, and Billy Cowan. It was a magical time for a 10 year old boy.

When we moved to Stockton California dad took us to see the A’s dynasty teams including a number of playoff games.  But he also took us across San Francisco Bay to watch the Giants.  I got to see Ed Halicki of the Giants no-hit the Mets a Candlestick on August 24th 1975.  In Anaheim, Oakland and San Francisco I got to see some of the greats of the era play in those stadiums, Catfish, Reggie, McCovey, Garvey, Vida Blue, Harmon Killebrew and so many others.

I became acquainted with Minor League Baseball when we moved to Stockton in1971. At the time the Stockton Ports were the Class A California League farm team for the Baltimore Orioles.  I remember a few years back talking to Orioles great Paul Blair who played for the Ports in the early 1960s about Billy Hebert Field and how the sun would go down in the outfield blinding hitters and spectators in its glare.  I became a closet Orioles fan back then and today I have a renewed interest in the Orioles because of their affiliation with the Norfolk Tides.  The retired GM of the Tides, Dave Rosenfield has told me about his young days in the California League and time at Billy Hebert Field in the 1950s.

As I have grown older my appreciation for the game only deepens despite strikes and steroids and other problems that plague the game at the major league level.  I am in awe of the game and the diamond on which it is played.  I have played catch on the field of dreams, seen a game in the Yankee Stadium Right Field bleachers, seen a no-hitter, playoff games and met many players. I’ve watched the game in Japan, seen historic moments when deployed to combat zones in and have thrown out the first pitch in a couple of minor league games.

I am enchanted with the nearly spiritual aspects of the game. The foul lines theoretically go on to infinity, only broken by the placement of the outfield wall.  Likewise unlike all other sports there is no time limit, meaning that baseball can be an eschatological game going on into eternity. The Hall of Fame is like the Calendar of Saints in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches.  There are rituals, the exchange of batting orders and explanation of the ground rules, the ceremonial first pitch, players not stepping on the foul line when entering and leaving the field of play, no talking about it when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and the home run trot. The care of a field by an expert ground crew is a thing to behold, especially when they still use the wooden box frames to lay down the chalk on the baselines and the batters box.

My kitchen and much of my dining room are as close to a baseball shrine as Judy will let me make them.  My apartment where I am stationed is another shrine to baseball with baseball artifacts throughout.

Since I returned from Iraq the baseball diamond is one of my few places of solace. When I was stationed in Norfolk I had season tickets behind home plate at Harbor Park.  At the end of the 2010 season I was transferred to Camp LeJeune and still have a bit over a year before I can go back to them. Last year I was able to take in a good number of Kinston Indians games but since that team was sold and moved I won’t get to see too many games in person this year. I am hoping to arrange my work schedule to be able to see the Tides Home Opener on Monday.  If I can do that I will sit back in whatever seat I can get and imagine the words of James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams:

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

In a sense those word say it all to me. Despite war, economic crisis and political division they are also a prayer.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, faith

Spring Training Begins: A’s and Mariners Start Camp Today

That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.  ~Bill Veeck, 1976

It is still winter but life is beginning to return. Spring training begins today…well early Spring Training for the A’s and Mariners who begin the regular season a week before everyone else in Japan.  Among those competing for a spot on the 25 man or 40 man rosters will be my friend Jim Miller, a relief pitcher who was in the Orioles system and who I know from Norfolk.  Jim has been a AAA All Star with Norfolk of the International League and last year with Colorado’s AAA affiliate Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League. I certainly want him to do well and would love to see him work his way into the A’s bullpen as the set-up man or closer.

Say what you want about football and the popularity of the NFL I still love the game of baseball. There is something that is so uniquely American about this game which has found its way into the hearts of so many people around the world in ways that the NFL has not.  I think that part of it is the sheer beauty of the game.  Walt Whitman said in reply to the comment that “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!” “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

Likewise through peace and war going back before our terrible Civil War baseball has been around.  It is a game that has changed little and it is a game that through the years has been part of the fabric of America, through good times and bad, in times of peace and war, prosperity and depression. We have had some difficult times of late but I think baseball something that can help. Bill “Spaceman” Lee said that “Baseball is the belly-button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.”  

We are at war and other wars threaten around the world. Our political climate is poisonous and though doing better lately the economy still slow and unemployment high.  But we have seen tough times before and have gotten through them, though at the moment things seem pretty bleak.

I love the movie Field of Dreams and one of my favorite segments is when James Earl Jones says:

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.” 

I believe that still to be the case and though the regular season does not begin for about a month and a half the fact that spring training is beginning is reason to hope.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No I will Not Grow Up: Some thoughts on my 51st Birthday

“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso

“I want to thank you for making this day necessary” Yogi Berra

Today is yet another anniversary of being forcibly evicted from my mother’s womb where I had taken a three week extension on my nine month lease. Ever since that time I have not acted my age….well maybe that’s not quite correct.  I think it is better said that I am aware of my age and pretend to act my age when the occasion requires that I do but deep inside I am still an incorrigible adolescent.  My brother who is six years my junior was 40 years old by the time that he turned eight.  He was always the serious one and when Judy and I took him on a toilet paper raid during my junior year in college he was scandalized.  Now that we adults he is still the serious one, I only get serious when I write about a serious subject or I’m in trouble.

Now when I was young in body as well as spirit I always was amazed and saddened to see people grow old. I don’t mean growing old in body because no one can get around that, but I mean growing old in spirit and losing their youth and joy in life.  It was sad for me to see people who really were not that old dressing and acting like they were older than their years. It made me want to never grow up, I didn’t want to be that way and as the people that know me can attest I am yet to grow up.  I still find the humor and irony in so many things and have to keep my humor in check sometimes in things like Board of Directors meetings and stuff like that; I do have a sense of decorum as misplaced as it often is.

I remember my paternal grandmother, “Granny” who when I was 5 years old and she was not much older than I am now was talking about how it wouldn’t be long until she was dead and gone. When she was 85 I pissed her off to ask if she was moving when she said it one too many times.  I think I got a call from my mom and dad about that one because Granny really got pissed.  I had an algebra teacher in junior high school named Mr. Nichley.  He looked really old then and dressed it and acted it. That was in 1974.  He just died a couple years back and was in his mid 80s, which meant that he was just in his 40s back then, he was a man too old before his time.  I saw so many people who lived their lives in that way that I rebelled against the thought of it.

Since I was born back in 1960 I can say that I was part of the 60s and that my views on life do not always square with my rather serious friends.  I really think that a lot of our political and ideological divisions in this country are because far too many people take everything too seriously. I know that we have a lot of serious issues that need serious answers but we have lost any sense of humor, levity and irony to face them well. Sometimes when I am around a lot of overly serious people I hear James Earl Jones telling Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams “Out! Back to the sixties! Back! There’s no place for you here in the future! Get back while you still can!”

We’ll I can’t go back to the 60’s but I can stay young.  I have resumed collecting baseball cards, still occasionally build model ships, tanks and aircraft, and try to stay active and I hope I can get on our hospital’s baseball team, if not this year maybe next. I do not own a suit. I have a few sports jackets (why they call them that I’ll never know because I have yet to see anyone playing baseball or football in one) and a few pairs of nice pants to go with my clerical shirts but only wear them when the occasion absolutely demands. For years Judy has tried and failed to get me to dress more upscale but I’d rather wear my wide array of baseball jerseys, fleeces and warm up jackets.  I try not to wear long pants after baseball season begins and until after the final game of the World Series unless absolutely necessary.  I always dreamed of being in the military as a kid and I am still in the military coming up on 29 years of total service despite being about as serious as Hawkeye Pierce and studious as Von Molkte the Elder. As Will Rogers said “Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.”

Tommy Lasorda said “I love doubleheaders. That way I get to keep my uniform on longer” well I have gotten to keep my uniform on a lot longer than most of the people that I have served with and still enjoy staying in the game. Life is good even when its not.

For me learning is part of staying young, I think that when we stop learning we start dying. This means that I will probably take up another advanced academic degree, not so much to increase my job opportunities after the Navy but because it keeps me young and engaged. The other part of remaining you is to know, love and believe in what you are doing in life.  In fact Will Rogers said that such was the secret of success. I think that so many people lose their joy because they have forgotten that little truth and that is another reason why we are in such a mess.

I try to stay fit and my doctors tell me that my blood pressure, cholesterol and other important measurements of health are those of people a lot younger than me.  My blood pressure is consistently about 105 over 70, not bad at all.

Finally I really believe that part of staying young is to live life to the fullest because we don’t know when we will breathe our last breath. Life is too short not to live it fully and at the tender age of 51 I want to get every bit out of life that I can in all aspects of life to include my faith as Francis of Assisi said “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  After all who can stand to be around gloomy, judgmental and overly serious Christians or for that matter those kinds of people in any religion?  In my chosen vocation of being a Priest and Navy Chaplain I decided to be true to who I am long ago. I won’t be something that I am not. When I was on the USS Hue City one of my sailors, Tommy Byrne nicknamed me “the Anti-Chaps” simply because I did not fit the mold of what most people expected, I think it was when I bought him and some of our shipmates a couple of pitchers of beer at a bar when on liberty.

Life is to be lived and Abe Lincoln said it so well put it “the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

I am grateful for my life and am blessed that neither Judy nor my little dog Molly look or act their ages either. I have many friends and today have been so blessed to hear from so many of them through the medium of Facebook.

I want to thank you all of my friends for being a part of my life. May you and your live long and prosper.

Peace and Blessings

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, purely humorous

Putting the World back in Order: Baseball Movies Tonight

“Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” Sharon Olds

“Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball” Pete Hamill

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” Walt Whitman

At long last I have my DVD player hooked up and the news is not on in my island hermitage. The past few weeks we have seen the world going crazy. Earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear crises, wars and revolutions, political and economic instability are driving me fricking crazy.  I’m sorry but I don’t know about you but this constant torrent of bad news is really getting old fast and it probably isn’t going to get any better any time soon. That my friends is reality and reality can suck like a Hoover, or what the hell a Dyson or Kirby for all I care, it sucks.

But guess what friends we have seen times and events like this before, hell the 1920s, 30s and 40s were as bad or worse. That my friends is reality and it sucked then too. And you know something somehow we as a people got through it. We dealt with the collapse of Empires, revolutions, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, the Great Depression, World fricking Wars, natural disasters, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Tojo and then to top it all off the beginning of the nuclear era and the Cold War with the ever present threat of Mutually Assured Destruction between the United States and the Soviet Union. But somehow the world survived, don’t ask me how but it did, not without a hell of a lot of pain, suffering and distress mostly brought on by people but occasionally nature but it still survived despite our best attempts to blow it all up.

Somehow as insanely sucky as things are right now with all the hate, turmoil and catastrophe unless the Cubs win the World Series in 2012 the apocalyptic asses prophesying doom and the end of the world in 2012 be it secular, religious or some convoluted theory about why the world will end because the Mayans ran out of rock for their calendar I don’t buy it. Now if the Cubbies win the 2012 World Series all bets are off and you better look to the east because there is a good chance that Jesus is coming. Now was that a hell of a run on sentence or what. That was almost as good as a German theologian.

So we are bombarded with bad news at a cyclic rate and yes it needs to be reported and it is probably good that we stay informed. However all that we do is tune in to the news 24 hours a day or giving three hours a day every day to some radio talk show host or for that matter never turn our radio dials away from them we will not have peace. If all we do is listen, read and watch what all of them stir up every day anxiety then it is no wonder that we are so anxiety ridden and hate each other so much.

I know what constant exposure to this can do for a person, because before Iraq I was consumed by this insanity. However, I came back from Iraq and reprioritized when I found that I could no longer do three hours a day every day or for that matter three minutes with any of these monsters of the airwaves.

Let’s face it Americans have come to loathe each other because all we focus on is how bad everything is and how it is someone else’s fault be they a liberal, a conservative, a Socialist, a Tea Party Patriot, a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or God forbid a Dodgers’ fan. We’ve divided ourselves in ways that haven’t been seen since the days before the Civil War, only now those visceral emotions are transmitted instantly through the television, radio and internet. Something has to draw us back to who we are as a people.

Unfortunately many can’t even find our peace in their faith because nutty extremists with all sorts of agendas from across the political spectrum have hijacked them so that preachers often have messages little different than pundits or politicians. As such we have become cynical, bitter and have lost faith in our political, social, economic and religious institutions and given them all into the hands of those whose chief desire is power.

So all that being said I am enjoying the hell out of two baseball movies tonight. The first was Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck as a New York Yankee slugger who is cut from the team and gets picked up by a Japanese team.  It’s a great flick and really shows some of the differences in the way Americans and Japanese approach this beloved game and how despite the different approaches how deeply it is ingrained in both cultures. Japan has suffered great calamity and we seem to teeter on the edge of our own calamities consumed in angst and for some anger.

The other movie that I am watching even as I write this little article is Field of Dreams a fantasy and allegory of baseball and life. It is a story that always gets me a story of redemption, second chances and hope, a hope that says “if you build it he will come.” We need to start building again; we have been tearing each other down for so long that we have left a tangled mess for our children.

I know for me that baseball is one constant that even when I experienced a loss of faith that left me a practical agnostic for two years after I returned from Iraq that brought peace to my troubled soul. The Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish was one of the only places that I could regain a sense of balance and life.

Yes there is a lot of tragedy and crisis in the world but in nine days it is opening day and the “Boys of Summer” will again step onto the lush green diamonds as the regular season begins. It is not a moment too soon. As Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones said so eloquently to Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams:

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

Things can be good again, we just need to pull together and persevere and believe again. I think that baseball, this wonderful game that has bridged the gap between East and West, this game that is timeless in an age of real and imagined deadlines, this game that still inspires millions around the world, this game that allows us to gain dip in the magic waters of hope and life can be as Walt Whitman said:

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

We need to “hear the voice” again see what can be, we need to find our Field of Dreams and make it real.

Well the movie is ending and I have tears in my eyes, tears of joy as I watch Ray Kinsella “have a catch” with his father John on that magical diamond and long for the day I can do so with my father who is somewhere in that cornfield waiting to come out and play ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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