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Sunday, May 7, 2017

LIFE'S LITTLE MIRACLES


Watching an Angels' game, which I sometimes do on Sundays, I saw center fielder Mike Trout of the Angels stroke a liner to center. If you don't know what the phrase "stroke a liner to center" means, obviously you're not a golfer, or else you need to brush up on your parlance. I suggest you watch more games. Sure, baseball is a slow game, and not a lot happens, but it's a great excuse to snack on high-calorie food, and in between balls and foul balls you have ample opportunity to think. Which I suppose is why they call baseball the thinking man's game. Or not. 

So Trout got a base hit to center field. The ball cracks off the bat, and he is not halfway to first base when I say inwardly, "Dude smoked it." An instant later the announcer said the same thing. "Trout smoked it to center." 

Now you might think it's not a big deal that the announcer and I used the same descriptive verb to call that line drive up the middle. Perhaps you think announcers have a rather limited repertoire of verbs to use for narrating base hits. But it's not that limited. He (Victor Rojas) could have used a dozen other verbs, many of them more common than "smoke." He could have said banged it. He could have said roped it. Or smashed it. Crushed it. Hit it. Drove it. Lined it. Spanked it. Stroked it. Walloped it. Whacked it. Pounded it. Bludgeoned it. Tomahawked it, is sometimes used. Or simply, "there's a base hit to center." Actually, I have never heard an announcer use the verb "smoke" before in a ball game. Rojas was a first for me.

What, if anything, does this mean? No doubt it's an instance of synchronicity. I learned the term as a young boy while watching TV with my family. We were talking during the commercials and someone said something and the next moment the same word was repeated by a character on TV. My dad held up his hand as if to command silence and with a somber look and a knowing nod said, "Synchronicity." His three sons, all under age 10, wanted to know what such a complicated word meant. "It means," said my dad, "that we're in the right place at the right time." Obviously. Sunday morning in my parents' bedroom was always exactly where I wanted to be.

Synchronicity has a storied history. The phrase was coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, whose name comes up frequently in these writings, probably because his proclivities were so diverse. He used the term to describe "meaningful coincidences." That is, temporarily coincident occurrences of acausal events. Synchronicity is when two similar things happen at or around the same time without one causing the other. Like me and Rojas uttering the same verb at the same time. Jung used synchronicity, or "falling together in time" as evidence of the collective unconscious. Rojas and I tapped into the same primordial well of verbs and came out with the same one. He didn't cause me to think it, and I didn't cause the verb to come to his mind. Though separated by many miles in space, we were connected. All of us are connected.

I am always on the lookout for instances like these, of magic in daily life. My life is so humdrum, so extraordinarily ordinary, that I am hyper-sensitized to the slightest variation in the regular rhythm and routine. With your hectic life, many friends and plans and deadlines, you would likely not even give a second thought to the synchronous occurrence had it happened in your own head. But if like me you live amid a self-imposed pseudo-sensory deprivation, then TV viewing is a big deal, since it happens so rarely. Cloister yourself within your own four walls for long enough and you will find, as do I, that what Rudolf Steiner once wrote is true: "In my own world of thought and feeling the deepest mysteries lie hidden, only hitherto I have been unable to perceive them."And you actually laugh out loud at commercials. They are getting cleverer at selling stuff by the day.

Synchronicity was also the name of a music album by the Police that came out in 1983. The name was inspired by the writings of Arthur Koestler on coincidence. That's a bit of trivia, and also a fantastic album. But really it's magic that reveals itself before our very eyes and ears, provided we slow down enough to perceive it. And baseball is suitable, because it's so slow. And provided we quiet the mind and be present in the moment. This little miracle I witnessed will not make money or even impress my friends at parties, and not only because I have few friends and almost never go to parties. But it made my night. 

We have been conditioned to associate divine forces and miraculous occurrences with some otherworldly power, something that hits us over the head and says, "Look how awesome I am." Even Socrates, arguably one of the wisest individuals ever to grace the pages of recorded history, was guilty of this "impress me" bias. In Plato's dialogue Parmenides, Socrates is discussing the idea of the good, which is perfection itself, and which might be called God by the religious-minded. He says that there can be an idea, a form, a quintessence of the good, but not of such things as hair and mud and dirt. But Parmenides advises Socrates "not to despise even the meanest things." 

You too must bring an impartial temper to daily life. If you do you will see the good lying hidden in even the most ordinary events. If you don't believe me, watch more baseball, or Xanadu, the story of a girl who makes dreams come true. And you'll find that Ms. John is one of life's little miracles, and my idea of physical perfection.




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