The Middle Way

Zen Spot #44 — Mindfulness, meditation and missing Harry Kalas February 5, 2018 00:05

I love baseball

In Philadelphia, in the early 1970s, the Phillies were awful for a while. Awful. It didn’t matter much to me though, I was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Despite living just 25 miles from Veterans Stadium, Roberto Clemente, in the Steel City, was my favorite player — for no reason at all. His brilliance faded into my consciousness at a time when I could only find out how the Pirates played in the following day’s morning newspaper.

I was between 7 and 10 years old. 

Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t watch baseball on TV much. The Phillies games were carried on a UHF television channel and my home was just far enough away from the broadcast towers to fill the screen with fuzz and static.

I listened.

Kalas and Whitey 

Every ball game, then and now, has two commentators — a play-by-play announcer and a color man. The first describes pitches thrown and the handling of balls hit into gloves and green. The second provides color--a description of the players’ backgrounds, the stadium, the evening, the field, the context. 

The first was Harry Kalas, the second was Richie Ashburn, also know as “Whitey.” Ashburn had been a player in the 50s and 60s.

Both were very good at their jobs. I didn’t need to watch the game. They brought the game into my mind’s eye.

Both have since passed. Dead masters.

Drawing

Summer evenings were spent drawing back then. They still are. Usually on the floor. Legs folded unlike a hurdler. Graphite everywhere.

At the time, I was oblivious to mindfulness but, in a way, I was already immersed. Drawing is automatic and improvised. It arrives without thought.

The most powerful part of Harry and Whitey’s broadcast was, ironically, the broad pauses between banter and batters. The pauses were unusually long by every professional standard. Fifteen to twenty seconds. Enough to hear the unroar of the crowd. Like listening to the muffled preparation of an orchestra, every musician tuning and warming up, sitting together minutes before the curtain goes up, turned down to almost a whisper. 

Hot dog vendors occasionally. Fans yelling joy spontaneously. Almost the sound of beach balls bouncing off fingertips and the rustle of ice in fountain sodas.

In hindsight, that blunted buzz was the game exhaling. A breath counted. Their conversation was, eventually, two friends playing cards, recounting whatever, two rooms away, knowing family is listening--existing entirely in the moment.

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What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?