Posts Tagged ‘Sidd Finch’

Sidd Finch lives

April 1, 2011

Have you heard about the Mets’ pitching sensation Sidd Finch?

An ascetic and aspiring Buddhist monk, Finch lived years in the Tibetan mountains, mastering Tantric secrets, the French horn and, improbably, the ability to hurl a baseball.

He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga … Sports Illustrated

What an amazing story. What a phenom. Unbelievable.


“We are not a part of nature, we are all of nature”

March 12, 2011

My head’s back, sorta.

Thinking this morning about my impending presentation at the 16th annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture, about the great Sidd Finch, and about the Buddha on nature.

“He specifically said it was a sin against right living for anyone to claim to have supernatural powers,” Jennifer Hecht reminds us. But,

Once Buddhism was out of the Buddha’s hands, the ideas of prayer and worship, a universal mind, magic, gods, and, of course, karma began to creep into many of the Buddhist sects that arose across the centuries…

Including Finch’s, evidently. Even “The Natural” couldn’t hurl a ball faster than a speeding bullet. What Sidd did in 1985 (in George Plimpton‘s fervid imagination) literally defied nature, not to mention credulity.

But there’s a larger point here:

The Buddha invited us to use our human consciousness to realize that we are not a part of nature, we are all of nature. It was a transcendent secularism, an empirical guide out of the limitations of the human mind… Buddhism is a nontheistic graceful-life philosophy and a nontheistic transcendent program. JMH

“We are all of nature” means we already possess the tools (as big league scouts like to say) to free ourselves from self-centered worries and fears.

This situation of ours is bliss… you are a collection of thoughts amid the universe, with nothing to do but be delighted with that surprising truth, and with the whole range of experience, without preference, without hurry, without dread. Every moment is a marvel of being.

“Nothing to do” is a stretch. Nothing but grade those papers, prep those classes, finish that conference talk (last year‘s & the year before)… Being “all of nature” is a full-time job. But Spring Training was awesome. Wish I was there.


January 5, 2011

David Brooks is often resented and criticized by my peers for dipping into philosophical waters he’s not been trained for. But I’m always happy to see philosophy on the pages of the Times (or hear it again on the radio), especially when it barks up one of my favorite alleys.

The topic of Brooks’s latest sally into my field is nothing less than naturalized transcendence: the quest for meaning and purpose in life which does not invoke or rely on supernatural powers and universal explanations.

We should have the courage not to look for some unitary, totalistic explanation for the universe. Instead, we should live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes that we can feel in, say, a concert crowd, or while engaging in a meaningful activity, like making a perfect cup of coffee with a well-crafted pot and cup.

Making? How about enjoying? One “cup of strong coffee at the proper moment” really can overturn your world. Make mine a grande-sized mug.

Brooks’s inspiration for this rare and welcome neglect of the political news-cycle, published on New Years’ Eve, is a new book by a pair of philosophers: All Things Shining by Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley and Sean Kelly of Harvard.

Michael Roth likes it too, but wonders if the authors haven’t gone overboard in extolling the transcendent possibilities inherent in the madness of crowds so often displayed in our sports arenas and stadia. Is triumph between the white lines really akin to capturing Ahab’s whale? Old Heidegger even comes into play here, but Roth– evidently not that kind of sports fan– questions the gravitas of bats and rackets and balls.

Can privileged, happy spectators really stand as an antidote for the general affliction of modernity? Is “whooshing” along with a crowd the philosophers’ cure for nihilism or just its expression?

Well, he’s right: it’s important to “whoosh” for the right things and for the right reasons.  I’ve been known to wax poetic and metaphysical about baseball, and will soon be doing it again: Sidd Finch and Sadaharu Oh are on deck.

But I wouldn’t contest the claim that our culture is insanely, obsessively, divertedly fixated on games. They’re only games, after all, and crowds can and too often do become unthinking violent mobs.

But… let’s not confuse the sullied product of professional athletics and consumerist gluttony with the purity of the experience to be had at (for instance) Younger Daughter’s junior varsity basketball game. The Tigers suffered their first defeat last night, but they’ll roar back. With a whoosh.