Thursday, February 16, 2017

When is enough, enough?

Non usque suus, quin eam fugiunt.*

Etiam non obscuram, sed eam attingit**

It is estimated that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old and still expanding. It could very well be nearing middle age and at some point, another billion years or so, it and we, could begin our long anticipated death spiral, eventually bringing an end to…I don’t know, a 30-billion-year, bigger-than-a-bread-box experiment in going nowhere .

The point is the universe is not going to be around forever, although never has forever seemed so long. The consensus of every single person living on Earth, backed by every religion trusted by those gentle souls, is that whether a God created the universe with a wave of His hand or did nothing more than jumpstart something that eventually was going to happen anyway, the appearance of man has always been the intended end game.

If everything simply fell into place on its own, man still has every right to be proud but he can’t really accept any credit. Being around when shit happens is no big deal even if we are the best shit in the universe—and we don’t even know if we are.

However, if a God is behind this, and I don’t mean in a sinister way; but if He is behind it, a logical question would be, why did it take so long to get to the main act? What was He expecting? Is He happy with what He got?

If we are the straw that stirs the drink, why are we only now entering at last call?

Say what you want about creationists but they put their money where their mouths are. They are certain God intended us to be special, so they have us entering the scene right in the first act. Unfortunately, according to them, that beginning was only a few weeks ago and to put it bluntly, the evidence proves otherwise.

If God intended all along for us to make a late appearance, all I can say is, you’ve got to admire His patience. Never has an individual—God or otherwise, put this much effort into a project and then waited so long to see the finished product.

Cars come off assembly lines a few hours after entering them—Cadillacs slightly longer, Ford Fiestas slightly quicker.  I know producing a highly intelligent human being is an entirely different ballgame because each one is “unique,” but we’re only “unique” because we keep saying we’re “unique.” If those Cadillacs could speak…I’m just saying.

I’m also saying 13.8 billion years is a long time to get to where we are today if the original purpose was to get to where we are today.

For about nine and a half billion years stuff was spinning around and bumping into each other like kids in a bounce house. No direction, no supervision, no purpose. Then about 4.5 billion years ago, God apparently picked out a rock that showed promise and began the ever so slow task of fine-tuning.

Even then, for most of those 4.5 billion years, it was like He still didn’t know what He wanted. Then, about 230 million years ago or 13.5 billion years into this great 13.8-billion year experiment, He got around to creating the dinosaurs and for a while, it looked like He was finally onto something big, something really, really big.

Were the dinosaurs what He was aiming for all the time? Who knows?

What we do know is that He gave them every chance in the world to make something of themselves. They had the run of the land, the sea and the air. They were fascinating. What kid doesn’t love a dinosaur? They’re big, bold and some of them were even buoyant.

But, and this but is as big as a dinosaur’s butt, the dinosaurs were around for almost 200 million years and didn’t build so much as a beaver dam. When do you, if you’re a God, conclude that a stagnant, sluggish status quo is not only boring, but also foolish. When do you cash in your chips?

It’s interesting to note that when He finally did take action, and it wasn’t until He had listened to almost 200 million years of insufferable, unbearable and almost never-ending bellowing and high-pitched screeching, but when He finally made His move, He didn’t hold back. He was so mad, so frustrated at the dinosaur’s complete inability to accomplish even the tiniest task, so fed up with their complete lack of initiative that He didn’t just kill them off. That would have been too good for the scaly, thick-skinned beasts.

No, He hit them with an asteroid bigger that a Walmart superstore and then buried them so deep that one day it would take a full crew of riggers working round the clock, drilling thousands of feet—sometimes through solid rock, to find them. To boot, they wouldn’t even look like dinosaurs anymore.

After the dinosaur experience, God needed some time off and He took it, to the tune of about 30 million years. The age of the dinosaur was that bad.

He had tried, “go big or go home,” and that failed miserably. He decided maybe it was time to “go smart or go home,” which is an interesting notion because by this time, the universe had gotten so big He wasn’t even sure if He could find His way home. Anyway, He began working on this thing He called man, putting the emphasis on growing his brain and not his tail, which He did keep in a greatly diminished form for only God knows what reason.  

For a long time His plan seemed to be working.

Man did what the dinosaurs were never able to do, which was build things. They were building up and down, left and right, to and fro, here, there and everywhere—piles of rocks that came to a point, buildings that came to a point, towers that came to a point, and even rocket ships that came to a point. Some of it was really good stuff. The point is, he was doing something.

Nevertheless, something was wrong. Whether it was an oversight, too much going on, or just too much down time on God’s part after the dinosaur fiasco, God discovered a mistake one day. A little bit of the dinosaur’s fighting gene made its way into man’s DNA.

At first, it wasn’t that noticeable because man had only his arms to work with. How much damage can one man with two arms do? But, as his brain got better, so did his capabilities. Before long, a brain and two thumbs could do more than a brain and two arms could ever do. Man began putting as much effort into destroying things as he had ever put into building things. The buildings were good but the de-building was literally earthshaking.

Competition to destroy someone or something before someone or something destroyed you became the biggest motivating factor on the planet. Man needed to channel that competitive but ultimately destructive spirit into something that wouldn’t kill him, because everybody was looking suspiciously at everybody else out of the corner of his eye—much like a pitcher holding a runner on at first base. Maybe that was the answer.

Athletic competition, both fun and entertaining, could provide the much needed distraction. Most importantly, it was non-threatening. About two million years into man’s existence, sports broke upon the scene like an asteroid sliding into home. Sports became the magic elixir that would keep man’s mind distracted long enough to prevent him from killing himself.

It goes without saying that all sports were good but because man is a thinking being with only a touch of dinosaur and not a dinosaur with a only a tiny inkling of a man’s brain, the challenge became to find the ultimate sport.

 Abner Doubleday might just have come up with the best idea yet when he invented baseball. We credit him but we don’t really know whose idea it was. We know it wasn’t God’s. A few thousand years earlier, God had paid His crowned jewel a visit with what He thought was helpful advice. Man not only said no, he said hell no. Despite what a lot of people will tell you, since then, God has pretty much taken a hands-off approach. Still, while the whole baseball thing may have caught Him off guard, He had to have liked what He saw.

Baseball employed all the strategies of a military encounter, except no one got hurt; all the intricate precision of an ever-expanding universe but with umpires to keep the game moving along.

A perfect pitch to a batter who must make a perfect swing to hit the ball to a fielder who must make a perfect play to catch and nab the hitter running the perfect distance. Put another way, there are roughly 8,000 square inches in a strike zone and all but two of them favor the pitcher. The batter has to find those two. That’s how hard baseball is.

Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest hitter of all time, actually went to war to avoid the likes of Bob Feller, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, who also went to war to avoid the likes of Ted Williams.

After watching His first baseball game, I assume God sat back, cracked open a cold one, which for Him could have been anything in the universe, smiled, and said, “Finally, after 14 billion years, something’s working.”

God no longer needed a universe to find perfection. It could be found on any ball field. Sadly, though, as with all good things, perfection often comes in small doses.

Maybe something on the order of the 15-inning pitching duel between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn in 1963 that was won on a Willie Mays home run. After waiting 13.8 billion years, this was simply a case of too little, too late.

All the while, that lingering dinosaur gene was proving to be too strong, too persistent. Man was again failing in his attempt to avoid self-destruction. Even when baseball was in its prime—and it hasn’t been in its prime for some time now—it could barely keep man totally distracted from his more violent tendencies.  Even within the sport’s world, it lags in popularity behind more violent sports.

Maybe mankind, like the dinosaurs, isn’t the answer. Maybe there is no answer. Maybe perfection can’t be had—not in a baseball season, not in a million years, not in 13.8 billion years.

The dinosaurs couldn’t make heads or tails with the biggest tails in the universe and man isn’t doing much better with the biggest brain. The good news is we’re not hanging around, wasting as like the dinosaurs. If the dinosaurs had man’s brain, they certainly wouldn’t have lasted 200 million years. In fact, a reasonable assumption might be they lasted as long as they did because they didn’t have man’s brain.


* It ain’t over till it’s over, but it’s almost over—Yogi Berra and me

** It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there—Bob Dylan












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