Center for Sacred Psychology

Soul Food Archive: Our Symbolic World

Main Courses are offered on a frequently changing menu. Here are words and images to ingest and digest for inner nourishment. We hope these hearty meals invite you to taste and savor, to muse, reflect and remember, to journal, to create art…that is, to feast on food for the spirit.


Pascha #2, by Archimandrite Kiprian,
Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY*

Our current main course, below, is just one of several Soul Food offerings. Please visit, also, our buffet of Guest Caterer Specials and, for lighter fare, our Desserts & Snacks counter. And, to sample earlier menus, we hope you’ll check out the Soul Food Archive. Like all who prepare foodstuffs, we hope to hear from those we serve! Space to leave comments, or read others' comments, on our cuisine follows each Soul Food offering.

 

 

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(A Disclaimer! This approach to baseball can be translated into the words and actions of ANY sport.
So, we hope for takes from soccer and hockey and basketball and ping-pong and rock-climbing
enthusiasts, and others, both active participants and armchair fans. There’s a link for comments below.)

• The masters of many spiritual traditions teach that a main skill in creating a sacralized life is finding the holy in the ordinary. And “the ordinary” can be washing dishes, driving to work, doing the laundry….and yes, also, enjoying a baseball game. One obvious connection to the inner life, of course, is that immersion in the ups and downs of a team or athlete offers us a break from daily concerns. Mini-escapes—a secular form of sabbath—are good for the soul…and that’s enough. Not everything has to be analyzed!! However, for those who like to think about different levels of sport and their effects on us, here are some ideas:

• There’s a whole literature on how events on the diamond are our symbolic mirrors, and shelves of books on life-lessons from various sports. The language of baseball is a rich vocabulary for our lives, within as well as without.  Which of these terms ring true?

sacrifice
set up
forced out
benched
off the wall
touch base

perfecto
safe
steal
error
rally
pinch hit
retired
rained out
struck out 
follow through
late innings
picked off
left stranded
ballpark figure
out of left field
read the signs
miss the signs
guarding home
waiting on deck
caught off base
hit it out of the park
cross the plate…
and on and on.

 

• Another clue about the connections between spirit and this sport shows up when baseball sportscasters and writers surprise us with vocabulary and themes from religion, speaking of:

miracles ~ curses ~ angels ~ the faithful ~ final arbiter(guess who?)
shrines, cathedrals, temples, hallowed ground (the ballparks) ~ the canonized (Hall of Famers)

The announcers refer to heresies (artificial turf! designated hitter! maple bats!
They encourage us never to lose hope, for there’s always the next at bat/inning/game/season.
They guide us through the comforting repetitive liturgy of baseball: 3 strikes, 4 balls, 3 outs, 7th inning stretch, 9 innings (all symbolic numbers)—and when to sit/stand/sing/wave.                                     
They immerse us in the language of ritual: schedule, rotation, lineup, batting order…and offer certainty in an uncertain world, that—in one small area of life, at least--there are unchanging guidelines about The Way The Game Should Be Played.

 

 • But Wait! There’s More! (as the broadcasters say).  Consider these soul-connections:

• First, the beautiful baseball diamond, a four-sided mandala (as was the garden of  Genesis--and from which, like Adam, one can be thrown out or even ejected for life).
•  And there are all those other geometric shapes: spheres, mounds, rows of bats and benches, square bases, and the arcs of a pitch, of a hit, of the ballpark itself.  In the sacred geometry of ancient times, these shapes were considered ideas in the mind of God.
•  There’s no clock in baseball.  And there’s no clock in the inner world, the world of the dream and imagination…and eternity.  The game moves us away from our demanding linear clock-calendar time (kronos) into the realm of kairos or timelessness…for awhile, at least.
Memorabilia: fans treasure the baseball card, the home run ball, the program signed by the hero, even the bobblehead doll.  Are these not like holy cards and relics?  The amounts paid for sports memorabilia speak of the great value such “magical” items hold for fans.  In some cultures, this is known as mana…the mystical quality projected onto an object from the viewer’s own psyche or soul.

• And even more…Like many sports, a baseball game immerses both fans and participants in a world of pairs.  Because its pace is slow, there’s time for this symbolism to affect us—perhaps not consciously, but subliminally.  The many pairs we meet in outer life are merest visible hints of the deep underlying archetype of relationship: Myself & The Other.  And within the soul lies the greatest of all such pairings, that of ‘I & Thou’ (or, whatever language one uses: ‘ego & Self,’ ‘I & not-I,’ ‘microcosm & macrocosm’ and so on).  Two-somes pile up during a baseball game, saturating the viewer or listener with repeated imaging of the archetype of relationship.  Some of these pairs:

right/left (field, pitcher)
fast/slow (pace, pitches)
inside/outside (pitches)
top/bottom (of inning)
team/individual (stats)
steal/get caught
walk/run
catch/throw
infield/outfield
hot/cold
(bats)
healthy/disabled
veteran/rookie
safe/out
win/lose
grass/dirt
east/west
fair/foul
home/away
ground/fly (out)
high/low (pitch)
night/day (game)
major/minor (league)
first/last (pitch, at bat)
closed/open (stance)

 

So, these are just a few oft-cited ways baseball speaks to us about life.  We absorb the language and images of the game as the (long) season moves on—sometimes explicitly making such soul-connections, far more often just immersed in these words and scenes which touch us implicitly. Either way, our enjoyment of the game can be brought under the umbrella of spiritual practice if we approach it with this intention.  (Silly cartoon: guy before t.v. rooting for the Cubs or Sox, calls out to partner: “Sorry, I can’t take out the trash now—I’m soul-tending.”)

Baseball reminds its thousands of fans to
Get on Deck!  Play Ball!  Stay in the Game!  Go All the Way! and, eventually…..Come Home.

 

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Those who love baseball have ‘caught’ its larger-than-life flavor from many a broadcaster or film or fan or sports photographer….or, artist. Here is the late William Feldman’s famous mist-drenched painting, Polo Grounds Nocturne.*

 

The clock and ad (for 'spirits'!) in deep center field tell us this game is taking place in ordinary or kronos time...but Feldman’s mystical setting says, "There’s more."

Enfolded in an other-worldly container, the game—with all its details--goes on. 
   Is this two-foldness true, also, of our daily lives? Did the artist paint more than a ballpark scene?

            Have I cherished memories of moments, such as this one, frozen in time?                 
Which of these can I access when I need a “holding, soothing memory?”



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We're interested in ways this Soul Food may have touched your life.

Click HERE to send us your comments...

 

Read Others' Comments...

 

"Can sports other than baseball help people connect with "that which is greater?" They sure can--here are a couple of examples from soccer, found in the L.A.Times during the 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa. Columnist Chris Erkskine, watching the Brazilian team, is reminded of angels frolicking in flowered fields (sounds like his t.v. carried him right to the religious artwork of Fra Angelico). And, a report from South Africa tells of 'soccer grannies'--low-income women as old as 84--who got local boys to teach them to play soccer. The sport has helped "the women transcend the boundaries that hem them in," reports Robyn Dixon, referring to boundaries of cultural expectations, poverty, and self-valuing. The soccer grannies come from villages around Tzaneen, S.Africa, south of the Zimbabwe border. These are just small examples, but show how easily the language of sport morphs into terminology about the non-visible world. Anyone for tennis?"
Thomas
Los Angeles

 

Our newspapers say the World Cup winners (Spain, 2010) have "achieved immortality."
Luis d.

 

Having just discovered your wonderful site, this is my dip of the toe into your waters. How refreshing! I can't wait to jump in and really get wet. The deeper meaning and connection of the things we do, lie just below the surface. Thank you for stilling the waters of our daily life and setting our gaze into the deep.
Larry Ruotolo
Covina, California

 

Dear Luis and Larry, We appreciate your contributions, and hope our site continues to bring intrigue and nourishment to your life.
All the best,
Thomas, for our staff

I did not grow up with baseball but when I got the hang of it I saw each game as a sort of orchestra. Every man on that diamond is vital, even the right fielder and I could sense their alertness and focus. Thank you reminding me that enjoying sports is good for the soul.
Ena
California

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* Credits for this page:

~ Pascha #2 by Archimandrite Kiprian, Holy Trinity Icon Studio, Jordanville, NY
A family in old Russia welcomes visitors with special Pascha (Easter) treats. Gratefully used with permission from Holy Trinity Icon Studio, Jordanville, NY, 13361. This excellent website is the source for inexpensive traditional icon prints and mounted icons.

~ William Feldman (1944-2009) painted this nostalgic scene in 1988 [©2009, Bill Goff, Inc., Bantam, CT with many thanks for permission to reproduce here; for art cards and limited edition prints of the original, see www.goodsportsart.com].  The text accompanying this image reads: “It’s long-past sundown at the New York Giantslong-gone Manhattan ballpark…a packed house in this mid-1950s scene.  You’re seated in the upper deck, just to the right of home plate, (looking) out to deep, deep center field.”  What a view! from the brilliant green mandala, to the arc from the left field foul pole to just beyond the right-center bullpen, the timelessness of the game is captured.
      The Giants would relocate to the Pacific coast by the end of the decade.  The old Polo Grounds soon would disappear.  But for this moment, as we enter the artist’s world of memory, time stands still.

~ SAFE HIT crate label from Old-Time Fruit Crate Labels in Full Color, Carol Belanger Grafton, ed. (©1988, Dover Publications -- Pictorial Archive Series).  Dover also offers a Legends of Baseball Discovery Kit for young fans, with classic cards, a coloring book, and paper dolls of ballplayers (doverdiscoverykits).    

~ More beautiful baseball art and classic writings on the game can be found in Diamonds Are Forever, Peter H.Gordon, ed. (San Francisco: Chronicle,1987).  And for fun, see Entire Tarot D’Cooperstown on the web.  This site pictures a tarot deck that only two baseball zanies could have imagined! It was the 1983 brainchild of Jim Markowich and Paul Kuhrman.  Less visual, but valuable, is James Penrice’s Crossing Home:The Spiritual Lessons of Baseball (NY: Alba House, 1993).  Also, an extensive literature on meaning in games and play is widely available.

 

WATCH FOR OUR NEXT MAIN COURSE—IN SEPTEMBER