Category Odds & Ends

Batter Up! But What About Everyone Else?

“What Are People For?” asked the farmer-poet Wendell Berry in the title essay of his 1990 collection that largely bemoaned industrial agriculture, mechanization, and the forced migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas in the name of progress and efficiency. The question rings through broad swaths of modern life, and will no doubt occupy the best minds of future generations as they grapple with the continued evolution of robotics and computerization and their effect on human consciousness and self-identity.

The question occurred to me Thursday night in a different context, though: beholding the “Opening Day” of the severely truncated 2020 baseball season that was like no other, ever.

Yes, two teams gathered in their finest new uniforms to do battle in a major league ballpark, but that was about where any similarities to baseball as we know it ended.

Like the old Buddhist koan about whether a...

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Social Distance Is None Too Social

A modest proposal: Can we stop calling the current, epidemiologically-sanctioned six-foot social distance “social?” I find it to be anything but social in the way that we know that word, unless “social” has been relegated exclusively to the adjective phrase, “socially conscious,” which a six-foot separation from other human beings indeed is in the context of protecting others and ourselves from the ravages of the coronavirus.

But “social distance” seems an almost cruel phrase in a time when all manner of sociability is, however justifiably, under siege, laid low, terrorized by a sub-microscopic virus that has ironically grown into a gigantic political football, bobbled back and forth between the left and right spheres of our political divide, both of whom are sounding decidedly anti-social notes of disdain as they watch, with mounting disapproval, the other side go about their lives.

Sigh…

It becomes obvio...

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Nancy Pelosi’s Loss of Form

Watching world-class sprinters run as fast as they do, your natural suspicion is that they are straining with every muscle, fists in balls pounding at the air, brows furrowed and veins in their neck ready to burst from the the sheer strain of racing at the 20+ miles per hour they do. But that’s not how it is at all. Instead, you see their palms completely open, brows smooth, and most improbably, cheeks bouncing back and forth against the sides of their face, all loosey goosey as the soft pliable flesh they are in their natural state.

The picture is one of a relaxed lope on a pleasant afternoon, which for sprinters, is a superhuman feat, when one really thinks about it.  Sprinters’ sculpted, muscle-bound bodies are finely wrought, explosive racing machines...

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At the Butterfly House

The mere thought—a museum facility for butterflies?—tickles the imagination. Especially so in the depths of January, the dark season of grudging light, offering back mere seconds daily toward the far-off abundance of spring.

But here it is, just blocks from my home, tucked in among the boundless trees, a wintry oasis of heat and humidity and the seemingly aimless flapping of wings, their bearers zigging and zagging through the weighty air, all sublime brilliance and self-possession, a purity of jazz in flight, never missing a beat…

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I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. —Chuang Tzu

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Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and pleases wherever it goes.—Anonymous

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Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. —Muhammad Ali

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As my love gave chase to a butterfly/ So did I give chase to love/ Now here ...

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“And Then It Was Over”: A Song of Transience, Clinging and Flux

“Everything flows and nothing stays,” said Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago, with those words and many thousands more that followed putting his stamp on the cosmic ledger as the “Philosopher of Flux.” He added a pleasing image by proclaiming we can never step into the same river twice, the waters displaced by that step already having worked their way downstream, so good luck finding those drops now.

Rivers may not always run deep, but Heraclitus most certainly did.

Bill noting the trajectory of their blooms’ fleeting life cycle by deadpanning: ‘And then it was over.’

“There really is no tomorrow, because when tomorrow comes, it’s today!” That was Mrs. Anderson, my kindly third grade teacher who seemed to my 8-year-old eyes to have been born in the age of Heraclitus, maybe even his wife, waxing philosophic with a mischievous smile on her face at the front of the class.

It sounded slightly...

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