One of my favorite arguments for God’s existence comes from philosopher Peter Kreeft. It is his “argument from Bach.”
- The music of Bach exists.
- This proves that there is a God.
- You either get this or you don’t.
Basically, Kreeft is making an aesthetic argument for God. There are certain things about the beauty of music like Bach’s that is both undeniable and also unexplainable. The beauty is undeniable in the sense that you would be safe in saying that the person who doesn’t find Bach’s music beautiful is just plain wrong. The beauty is unexplainable in the sense that there is no materialist account of reality that can adequately explain both the existence of and our experience of aesthetic beauty. Kreeft makes the bold statement that this reality proves God must exist, but he also acknowledges that much like beauty itself, you either get it or you don’t.
Painter, Makoto Fujimura, describes artists as “border stalkers” who live on the edge of their group and also on the edge of their world. In an almost priestly capacity, artists live at the border of two different worlds. Their sacred task is to remind the rest of us that another world exists, not just in the future, but presently. I like that. I’d like to also propose that baseball players are border stalkers. Hear me out.
There is drama and beauty in all sports. Watching the Olympics this week has been a good reminder of that. But there is an undeniable aesthetic that is unique to baseball. I wish I could explain it to you. Others have done a much better job than I could ever do. Philosopher David Bentley Hart wrote one of the most impressive arguments for the uniqueness of baseball calling it a platonically perfect game. I post a link to this essay every year at the beginning of the MLB season. At the end of the season I post this video from former MLB commissioner Bart Giammati where he recites his own poetic ode to baseball called Green Fields of the Mind. I wouldn’t argue with you if you labelled these expressions overly romantic and maybe even a little cringe-worthy. I would argue with you, however, if you denied the basic reality that each man is trying to describe. There’s something there with baseball. There’s something there that inspires poems like Casey at the Bat or songs like Take Me Out to the Ballgame. There’s something there that keeps long-lost legends like the Babe, the Iron Horse, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson alive in the imagination all these years later. No other sport can boast of producing a roster of films like Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, The Natural, 42, Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, Major League, The Rookie, or (lest I forget) Rookie of the Year. There’s something there. You know there’s something there when you walk up the stairs of a stadium and catch a glimpse at the greenest grass you’ve ever seen. You know there’s something there on those picture perfect early summer nights watching your kid, over-sized hat pulled down over his ears, taking grounders on the infield with his friends. I don’t know. Either you get it or you don’t.
Baseball has always been a sport for the contemplatives. Maybe it’s the pace of the game. It gives you time to think, to ponder. Baseball engages the left brain and the right brain, the body and the soul. It is a sport obsessed with numbers, records, and analytics. But it’s also a sport possessed by art and beauty, superstition and magic. It’s counter-cultural game. In a world where we are caught up in the tyranny of the moment, baseball stubbornly reminds you that tradition matters. You are a part of something bigger and much older than you. In a world where we all live in frenzied distraction and stimulation, baseball insists that we slow down and pass the time.
Forgive me for my sentimentality, but it’s been a bit of a week in the Ragsdale house. One of my joys as a dad has been watching my son grow to love baseball. He fell head-over-heels in love in 2015 as a 10-year-old. It was the Summer of Jake and we were all obsessed with the Cubs and their Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. That year when the Cubs beat the Cardinals (the Vile Bird in our house) in the playoffs, it was legitimately hard to imagine a greater feeling. Then 2016 happened. We went to Wrigley on July 31 and watched “the Jon Lester game” with good friends. A comeback and a walk-off bunt in the 12th inning on a sticky Chicago night. Everything was right with the world.
Of course we know what happened that fall. The greatest game ever played was on a Wednesday in Cleveland. We were both basket cases after the eighth inning. I mean, weeping and gnashing of teeth type of stuff. And then the rain delay. And then the Schwarber single. And then the Almora tag up. And then the Zobrist RBI. And then the ground ball to Bryant. My son was so excited that he stripped off his shirt and ran around the neighborhood screaming like a maniac at 2 in the morning. We were both laughing and crying like we’d lost our minds, and I suppose we kind of had lost our minds.
Baseball has a way of reminding you about the passage of time. Giammati reminded us that it enters back into our lives every spring when things are new. It walks with us through the sunny and carefree summer months. It leaves us every autumn as things are dying to fend for ourselves through a bitter winter. Baseball also has a way of reminding us about the passing of years, that time marches on and nothing lasts forever. Yeah. I feel that. Names like Rizzo, Baez, and Bryant had become part of our family over the last 6 years. My son grew up with these guys. He never missed a game. He celebrated their ups and was always convinced their downs were only temporary. He loved them, and honestly, so did I. And then this week happened. Giammati also said that the game was meant to break your heart. Yeah. I feel that. First, Rizzo gets traded to the Yankees (barf). The next day, Javy gets traded to the Mets (double-barf) and Bryant gets traded to the Giants (not as bad as the others, but definitely a barf). Poof. It’s over. My son will be 17 this fall. Baseball cruelly reminded me this week that my son is getting older, and so am I. He’s no longer a little kid. But he still sleeps in a World Series t-shirt we bought in 2016.
Some of you no doubt think that this post is silly. That’s fine. You might be right. What can I tell you? I’m going through some stuff! I know there is a danger in caring too much about something like baseball. A whole lot of people turn sports into a hungry god in their lives – particularly in our culture. But that doesn’t mean that baseball is nothing! Baseball was never meant to be the meaning of life. But things like baseball are important to a meaningful life. Baseball is one of those many things that give life texture and color. It’s also one of those many things in life that remind us that there’s more to life than bland, lifeless materialism. Life is full of wonder and joy and sadness. There is something there. There is something about the beauty, the feeling, the mythology of baseball that can’t be completely explained by purely materialistic means. That’s why a movie like Field of Dreams which has a totally ridiculous premise also kind of makes sense. You don’t have to believe in God to love baseball. Columnist and baseball fanatic George Will is the best example of this. The relentlessly smug baseball writer, Keith Law (he blocked me on Twitter) is another example. You also don’t have to believe in God to appreciate Bach. But I’m not convinced that you can really make sense of why you feel the way you feel about Bach or baseball without God.
I don’t know. Either you get this or you don’t.