December 11, 2018

Another Look: Just Over the Horizon (with bubblegum)

Another moment I have always remembered was walking out on deck one night after supper and finding a young red-haired officer peering into the dark through binoculars. He told me he was scanning the horizon for signs of other ships, and the way to do that, he explained, was to look not at the horizon but just above it. He said you could see better that way than by looking straight on, and I have found it to be an invaluable truth in many ways. Listen not just to the words being spoken but to the silences between the words, and watch not just the drama unfolding but the faces of all around you watching it unfold. Years later when preaching a sermon about Noah, it was less the great flood that I tried to describe than the calloused palm of Noah’s hand as he reached out to take the returning dove, less the resurrection itself than the moment, a day or so afterward, when Jesus stood on the beach cooking fish on a charcoal fire and called out to the disciples in their boat, “Come and have breakfast.”

– Frederick Buechner, “Wunderjahr”
from Yellow Leaves: A Miscellany

* * *

Truth generally doesn’t knock on the door and introduce itself when you open up to see who’s there.

You might recognize a fact that way, the way you open a book and it says Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961.

But a fact like that is just like a name on the map, the place you used to live, let’s say.

Truth, on the other hand, comes when you remember how it felt to ride your bike over the old brick street in front of your house in that little Midwest town, while the baseball cards you had clothespinned to the back wheel thwack-thwack-thwacked against the spinning spokes.

And then you recall that one of those cards might have been a 1962 Roger Maris.

You bought it the summer before, when you and a few of your buddies rode your bikes like banshees to the corner store several blocks away, jumped off, set your kickstands, and poured through the door. The smell of bread and candy wafted over the wooden floors and counters and the gray-haired lady in the apron by the cash register greeted you as if you were family. She kept her eye on you, too.

Some older kid had announced that the latest series of baseball cards was out, and every single one of you raced home to dump the change out of your banks, and scrounge it from under your bed, off the kitchen counter, wherever you could find it. You stuffed it into your pocket and the screen door slammed behind you as you jumped off the porch and mounted your bike.

Now, there in the store, you dug through your pockets and counted that change. How many packs could you buy?

You flipped through the shiny plastic packs in the display boxes and picked out the ones you hoped held a rare and precious card. Your grubby little boy hands piled jingling coins on the counter. A few strays had slipped out of your pocket and spun on the floor. You reached down and picked them up and put them in the pile. The lady counted your money, rang it into the register, gave you the change, and handed you a brown paper bag. You and your crew rushed outside to make your discoveries.

You stuck as many pieces of the hard pink bubblegum as you could in your mouth and examined your cards. There it was. Roger Maris. Home run champion of all time.

Then you and your friends, with all your loot, pedaled like mad pirates back to the neighborhood. “Maris! I got Maris!” you cried as you saw the older kids playing wiffle ball in their driveway.

Your bike wheels rumbled over the bricks until you whipped left into your driveway, slammed on the brakes and skidded, laying a line of rubber on the concrete. “Hey mom!” you shouted as you burst through the screen door and the kitchen and bounded, two stairs at a time, up to your room. You fell on your blue cotton bedspread and laid the baseball cards out in front of you.

One by one you looked at them, chomping on your bubblegum. You picked up that special card over and over again, examining every detail.

“Wow,” you thought. “61 home runs, 142 RBI’s. Roger Maris.”

And that’s the truth.

Comments

  1. Sigh. Its probably my old Enlightenment/Reformed background talking, but I still wince when people dichotomize fact and truth. I still think the words are synonymous, and any emotional impact of facts/truth is an entirely separate issue.

    • If the Maris’ statistic were not factually true, then the feeling Spencer got from remembering his experiences would not be the truth, but an illusion. We have terms for the illusory perception of reality, not backed up by facts: insanity, and fake news. On the other hand, bare facts are not thick enough existentially to be adequate to the personal experience of reality, and so although they may convey truth, they are not true enough. If I accurately state the facts about the suffering of a migrant child in a Texas detention center, I have not communicated the truth about the suffering of their experience in anything like an adequate way. The bare facts are necessary, but not enough; I must say something about how it must feel, and I must be able to empathize, to experience something of the truth involve in their experience.

      • “bare facts are not thick enough existentially to be adequate to the personal experience of reality, and so although they may convey truth, they are not true enough.”

        I would say “they are not *impactful* enough”. One man’s existential experience of reality is another man’s bare facts. To me, Roger Maris’ record is just and always will be bare facts, since I am not a huge baseball fan. I suppose it comes down to whether one prioritizes the bareness of facts or their personal impact. I think in this current age, we need to cut back to the bareness and scale back on the personal-ness.

        • I think in this current age, we need to cut back to the bareness and scale back on the personal-ness.

          In this current age we need poetry more than ever, and for poetry, “just the facts” won’t do.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > but I still wince when people dichotomize fact and truth. I still think the words are synonymous

      I’m good with it. Used to bother me. Today I do see them as anything but “synonymous”

    • johnbarry says:

      Eeyore, I agree with you. Facts are “the” truth, how we react to the truth/facts is a different issue.

      • Christiane says:

        Good Morning JB,
        but in today’s excruciatingly bewildering political scene, there has emerged something in Trump World called ‘alternate facts’

        so now when we are researching anything, it has become necessary to ‘consider the source’ and having determined the source, to then consider that source’s agenda . . . .

        and if you want to REFINE ‘the facts’ and ‘the truth’ concerning that source’s agenda, you have to what is claimed through the lens of all of the modes of being of those who heartily condemn ‘political correctness’ and there, if you probe for a while, you can determine the roots as going down into various poisonous wells: misogyny, racism, white supremacy, contempt for immigrants, contempt for the poor, homophobia, Islamophobia, it goes on and on and on . . . . . .

        and after a while, you come out of that maze into the light again, emerging not in the same state of innocence about people’s abilities to recognize ‘truth’ that is something unconnected to their own interests and prejudices

        take ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ and throw that out there for discussion; and oh my goodness, those poor people on the barrier islands about to be destroyed by a cat 4 hurricane will swear to highest heaven that there is no such thing as . . . . why? because that is what the people on Fox News have told them is ‘true’ and they only watch Fox News;
        or maybe their minister down at the Church told them that liberals were conning them about global warming and not to trust science as presented by ‘liberals’

        it is a tangled web of deception for reasons that are not wholesome and in the end, there will always be prices to be paid for our foolish ways and for letting others do our thinking for us

      • Truth is not the sum total of all the correct facts.

        Truth and accuracy are not the same thing.

        Truth transcends correctness and accuracy.

        Love transcends even all of that.

        Ken Kirby

    • Eeyore, not so much a dichotomy between the two, but a fuller understanding of the concept of truth. You are absolutely correct in rooting your aversion in Enlightenment thinking. It’s too binary and limited in a God-soaked and sacramental world.

      • Christiane says:

        “You are absolutely correct in rooting your aversion in Enlightenment thinking. It’s too binary and limited in a God-soaked and sacramental world.”

        Can you give us a good example of that, Chaplain Mike. And thanks.

  2. Pellicano Solitudinis says:

    It shouldn’t be seen as a dichotomy; it’s more a case of fact being only one aspect of something much bigger.

    I come from a Reformed background too, but I was fortunate enough to read Tolkien, including his excellent essay *On Fairy-stories*, in my early to mid teens. It changed the way I thought about truth.

    • Phil Dickens says:

      This reminds me of a line I read somewhere, “fairy tales are true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

      • Christiane says:

        Hello Phil,

        but just in case, it’s always good to remember this advice:
        “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”

        heavens knows why that’s the motto from Hogwarts School, because everyone knows not to mess with sleeping dragons anyway, it’s just common sense

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          everyone knows not to mess with sleeping dragons anyway, it’s just common sense

          “Because Thou Art Crunchy and Taste Good with Hot Sauce…”

      • Phil — bingo. You win the comments section today.

      • After a quick Google, turns out it’s Neil Gaiman transliterating Chesterton from memory. And (doesn’t happen often with Chesterton!) the result is better than the original.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello Pellicano,

      you wrote ” it’s more a case of fact being only one aspect of something much bigger.”

      🙂

      Yes, I agree, on so many levels.

      I remember how C.S. Lewis, who was a close friend of Tolkien, illustrated the mystery of the Doctrine of the Incarnation in his Narnia Chronicles:

      ““Yes,” said the Lord Digory, “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
      “Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
      (C.S.Lewis)

  3. Look at that card. Too bad we can’t watch the faces all around as that unfolds. That card didn’t get clothespinned to the back wheel. For me it’s true that Corey Kluber’s only problem is that post-season baseball is merciless. The truth for any Cubs fan here might be when Tony Wolters( Claimed off waivers from the Indians by the Rockies) waited and waited for a chance to play. Then with a double switch in the thirteenth inning got his chance. Not all people like chance.

  4. Rick Rosenkranz says:

    This is an interesting post and follow-on discussion. Not sure where I stand on the difference between fact and truth. For instance, is it fact or truth that CM might never have written this article had he never owned a 1962 Roger Maris card? Was it his owning the card that led him to write this reflection on truth and fact? Would any other card have caused this reflection?

    Those might all be rhetorical questions. The REAL question is: CM, do you still own that card? That is a fact I want to know.

    • Oh, how I wish, Rick!

    • “is it fact or truth that CM might never have written this article had he never owned a 1962 Roger Maris card?”

      Neither. It is alternative historical speculation. 😉

      • How about, “Would CM have written this article if he’d had a 1902 Honus Wagner card?” Or “how much differently would this article have read had he once owned a ’23 Babe Ruth?

    • I guess I look at fact and truth this way. You are standing on a street corner and witness an accident. That two cars collided is a fact. The truth is the cause of the accident and that is up for interpretation depending on where you were standing and what your line of sight was, what the mental state of the drivers were (maybe one ran a red light but the other driver was distracted. Both things could have caused the accident but who actually did?), your level of distraction (did you actually see the wreck or did you see both cars moving, hear the impact, and then look?), and many other factors. The answers to these questions get to the truth.

      What I see too often now is arguments over the facts. So these cars appeared to collide but how do we really know? Sure there is debris on the road, sure the airbag deployed, sure one of the drivers is bleeding but how can you prove that these things had anything to do with each other? Maybe the one car already had a fender missing and the fender on the road just happened to already be there. Maybe the airbag malfunctioned. Maybe the nosebleed just happened. And this makes us question even our basic ideas of reality and I think this way of thinking is very dangerous.

  5. cheesehed says:

    Reading this, I still remember the home run chase of Maris and Mantle that seasons. If I remember it right, they
    televised the final week of the regular season on national TV. Nice memory!