Friday, April 01, 2005

The Paradox of Loss

As a youngster, your humble Contributor was a huge fan of the Washington Senators. Students of baseball history would quickly note that the young Contributor had no reason for his devotion. Not since the days of Walter "Big Train" Johnson had the Senators been real contenders. In fact, the Senators your young Contributor worshipped were the second incarnation of the team -- the earlier having hit the road for Minneapolis in 1961.

But, still, there were always glimmers of hope: Frank Howard at the bat -- would he knock one out of the park? Or, far more likely, strikeout? Ted Williams -- Hall of Famer -- would he lead the Senators to the World Series? Or, not? Denny McLain -- the last 30-game winner in the majors -- would he be the ticket? Or, just an arm no better than my grandmother's? (No offense, Grannie.)

The ultimate answer was this: in 1971, the Senators hit the road for Texas. And, the poor, tender fan was left with the choice of rooting for the Orioles -- the arch-enemies who would occasionally roll down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and visit some cruel and unusual punishment upon the Senators, then pile back on the bus -- or nothing. It would have to be nothing.

The loss of a largely losing team -- hardly something to mourn, unless one understands the metaphysical import of baseball. Recall the spiritual struggle at the heart of Damn Yankees.

This will have been a week of loss -- a loss of a man remembered ritually on the liturgical calendar -- a loss of a lady coming at the end of perhaps an unsurpassed string of legal losses -- and, a loss of an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.

But, loss is the prerequisite for any real gain -- without loss, one cannot step into faith and trust in something unseen and unrealized. Winning does not force such a movement. Yet, loss is the thing -- paradoxically -- that drives ultimate victory, even if the relationship is mysterious. If the world is a stage, then loss, or apparent loss, in the engine of the drama. It is the sign of contradiction -- a stumbling block to some, a revelation to others -- the seed that falls to the ground and dies.

Next week, the Washington Nationals will open their season, and the spring begins, and the seed that has died bear fruit. Maybe there is a such thing as resurrection.

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