When I was a kid, I played weekend baseball in the schoolyard. Those were hot summer days, the kind that practically make you gulp down an orange popsicle before it melts in the heat. We were all dusty and dirty with summer and baseball and none of us had jeans that weren’t torn somewhere. We all wore the same black and white sneakers. When we were in our positions on the diamond, we watched each other.
“Who’s on first.”
“What’s Who up to on first?”
We watched each other’s movements, waiting for telltale signs that would give up the other kid’s next move. One mid-July day―so hot mirages hovered in the school parking lot and the sand in the baseball diamond was so dry that we trailed clouds of dust running from base to base―we were short on gloves and I was the catcher…without a glove. I forget the pitcher’s name, but his fastball screamed from the mound to the plate. A bit faster and it would have cracked the sound barrier and broken the school windows.
And I had no glove.
All it took was one pitch and it wasn’t the sound barrier cracking…it was my thumb. The sound of a bone breaking is sickening. Not just to the person with the broken bone, but to anyone close enough to hear that dull crack of calcium under flesh rearranging the physiognomy in an unnatural order. Some people throw up.
But not any of us. We were baseball players and none of us were going to chuck our cookies over something like a broken thumb. At least not in front of everyone. Long story short, saw a doctor who wrapped it up and said, “Someday you will meet a fox.”
Always wondered about that.
The thumb hurt like hell for days but it didn’t put me out of the game…I was the umpire. A very mean angry umpire with a painfully broken thumb. Who would never play baseball again.
“Where’s all this going, Biff?” said the fox. “You don’t even watch baseball anymore.”
“Hey, fox,” I said. “Somebody warned me about you 150 years ago.”
“Biff,” said the fox, “that can’t be…you’re only 105. So…what’s all the baseball memories got to do with your search for peace?”
“Everything has something to do with the search, fox,” I said. “But those summers are closer to the next part of the search.”
“How so, Biff?” said the fox.
“We were all real,” I said. “We could see each other, yell at each other, throw the ball to each other. We could break a bone, lose an eye, get a bump the size of an egg on our heads. But we didn’t care. We just wanted to be out there, pleasure or pain, and play baseball. And we were all connected physically and mentally by the game. Know what I mean, fox?”
“I can do that just by messaging people on FB, Biff,” said the fox.
“No, fox, you can’t,” I said. “It’s a different connection. If the person on the other end breaks a bone and they don’t mention it…you’ll never know about it. Your connection will be only what they want you to know. You won’t see or hear their pain…you’ll only read their words. ”
“OK then, Biff,” said the fox, “I’ll Skype them.”
“You won’t be able to give them a hug when they break the bone,” I said. “And that’s the problem with online connection, fox…it’s not full connection. It’s not a complete engagement with life. You don’t get the full story.”
“We might get that someday, Biff,” said the fox. “When they have, like, surround Skype complete with smellorama and pain and stuff.”
“But how will you know if they haven’t turned down the sound when they fart so that you won’t know they’ve farted? You can’t do that in real life. You’re stuck with what actually happens. And there’s honesty and certainty about that.”
“But…” the fox tried to say.
“And you won’t be smelling the same air,” I said, “feeling the same temperature, sharing the same danger if an earthquake suddenly swallows one of you up. Instead of losing your lives together, you’ll just lose the connection.”
“But the earthquake might happen on the other end, Biff,” said the fox. “I think I’m OK with that.”
“There might be free beer and pizza at the other end, fox,” I said. “Real life is all the good and all the bad. Shared. It’s real connection. And we’re losing it.”
“But we didn’t have peace even before computers and social media, Biff,” said the fox. “So what’s this got to do with the search?”
“Not sure yet, fox,” I said. “I think it tells us something about ourselves, something that’s always been in us but that’s manifesting itself through mediums it couldn’t use before. And now we can see it. I think it might be in the connection…or maybe the disconnection.”
“Worth a closer look, Biff?” said the fox.
“I think so, fox. Always good to look closer at things.”
(To be continued. In a connected sort of way.)
“So, fox,” I said, “you’re on Facebook?”
“Might be, Biff, might be.”