Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No. 4, 2021
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
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Daniel Charchuk
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Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
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Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
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Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




The income men derive from producing things
of slight consequence is of great consequence.

John Kenneth Galbraith

What can we say -- no apology required -- about the fat of a baseball bat striking a ball and someone chasing it down, or a golf club whacking a smaller ball and sending it 350 yards yonder; cause and effect sequences, that, despite their self-evident uselessness, are universally applauded? And what can we say -- apology required -- about the farmer who seeds his wheat in May and harvests in September; an occupation -- universally regarded as useful -- for which he is sometimes fairly paid but never applauded? At first glance, there seems to be a major disconnect as it concerns the extravagant monies and time we spend on the former, and, on a good day, the mere after-thought we offer to the farmer whose fresh bread we daily delectate.

According to the philosopher Hegel, in The Phenomenology of Mind (1807), 'Being' is the least category of existence. In fact Hegel's Being is so insubstantial, like a nothingness that accidently stumbles into something for an instant, that it doesn't even merit the status of an idea , which comes about only when something can be contrasted or differentiated from something else. But out of this near-nothingness, an ever-expanding universe of cause and effect is spun, and one of the spin-offs is the world we inhabit. And we know this to be true because we are sentient beings who have reached a consensus on the principles and axioms that account for the basis of life on the planet earth and beyond. Mere Being, a something as opposed to nothing, is the beginning of everything, which makes the Big-Bang both an astronomical and philosophical thought conundrum.

Entertainment value aside, could it be, as with Hegel's minimal Being in which a potential world is embedded, that there is unsuspected usefulness in the apparently useless act of a wooden object striking a ball, an observably fatuous undertaking compared to the enterprise of the farmer or anyone engaged in the production and management of life’s indispensables: food, water, shelter and clean air.

We begin by offering thought to the essential objects involved in the flight of a ball.

The existence of the bat is not a fortuitous occurrence. Its particularized manufacture is contingent upon a community of skilled and properly equipped lumberjacks, the systematic felling of either ash or maple trees, the transport of the raw material to the local mill where the trees are debarked and treated, and then sent to a company that specializes in the specifics applicable to bat manufacture.

If the game of baseball, which is one of many forms of entertainment available to the public, is regarded as a frivolous amusement or diversion, where a team’s winning or losing is inconsequential compared to the farmer losing his crop to inclement weather, the same cannot be said of the lumberjack, the semi-truck driver and the mill worker, all of whom earn their living consequent to the worldwide demand for bats, which are essential in the unfolding of the apparently useless activity of a bat striking a ball. Last but not least are the players themselves, who, despite dedicating their lives to a useless activity, depend on that very activity to earn their very handsome livings thanks to available monies supplied by us, the viewing public, for whom this particular useless activity provides varying degrees of very useful pleasure and distraction.

And all this holds true for every aspect of the game: from the construction of baseball stadiums; to the design and production of baseball gloves, shoes and uniforms; to the selling of game-related paraphernalia (T-shirts, team logos, baseball cards); to the massive transport (metro, taxi, automobile) required to shuttle the game’s fans to the stadiums and back; to the contracting of food and beverage suppliers, as well as accountants, lawyers and players' agents. All of these ancillary activities are real and consequential in that they provide employment to thousands of people. So out of a seemingly useless activity of a wooden object striking a ball, thousands of very useful activities are generated.

Preceding the existence of anything is the idea of it (essence precedes existence). Before a rock receives its name of ‘rock,’ the mind contextually encounters the said object and names it to differentiate it from, for example, sand, pebble and soil. All entities that have not been meaningfully perceived and/or encountered are fated to remain nameless. The first obligation of any idea (all ideas are mental constructs), is to find a carrier (a body), and ideally a carrier spreader. An idea that is unable to embed itself in another consciousness is said to be stillborn, doomed to be interred in the ever-expanding cemetery of useless, unrealized projections of the imagination.

There was a time when Christianity was merely an idea, and, had it remained in the single consciousness of the person who conceived it, it would have remained in permanent oblivion as a disembodied, useless idea, of which millions are generated every day in the collective imagination of the species. But the idea of Christianity quickly spread to other consciousnesses, and it didn't matter a whit whether or not the idea was a fiction, a myth, or an outright lie; it was sufficient that the idea quickly spread from one consciousness to another, such that out of this mere idea a real world of cause and effect arose.

Even if one day it is proven that there is no God, or Son of God, or if there is a God it doesn't resemble in the slightest the Christian notion of God, the real consequences generated by the idea-as-fiction will prevail. The magnificent cathedrals and the religious art work generated by Christianity are real and useful as is the Magnificat music that was composed to amplify the glory of the architecture that housed it. The enduring and ubiquitous existential truths produced by Christianity render almost irrelevant the very real possibility that the religion is founded on a lie, or a spectacular misconception (that there is a God).

From its humble beginnings as an unsubstantiated idea proper to the consciousness of a single human being, Christianity, for the past two millennia, has provided for the employment of millions of people (architects, engineers, construction workers, artists and artisans, pamphleteers, exegetes) and its devotees have dedicated a significant portion of their very real and limited lifetime hours to the religion’s rites and beliefs. This spending of time is real and deemed useful. Countless thousands of believers have waged war and defended the idea of Christianity to their death, despite the fact that the existence of God remains an untested, unproven construct.

Even a ridiculous idea, provided that it affect other consciousnesses, can generate real consequences. The notion of voodoo, the belief that someone can revenge a perceived wrong by sticking a pin into a doll, does not appeal to the rational mind. But among those minds under the influence of the idea, real activities are generated: from the employment that results in the manufacture of voodoo dolls, to the writing of books on the subject and the change in behaviour of the faithful.

From the Greeks (Heraclitus, Plato) to Carl Jung, from the word enantiodromia, there is a fundamental law of life that says everything that exists over time evolves into its opposite. A game of fun and distraction (cribbage) is practically speaking useless until real money is waged on the outcome, and then, depending on the wager, it becomes serious; the same for horses running in circles. The useless activity of baseball that was originally played in an abandoned field for fun is now deemed useful in that it creates employment for thousands of people.

An idea qua idea -- as an unembodied in potentia -- as soon as it begins to generate real events and consequences, can be said to be useful. The reification (concretization of the abstract) of an idea or concept is tantamount to bearing witness to something evolving (morphing) into its opposite.

The notion of ‘something,’ as a concept, cannot exist without a ‘nothing,’ just as a useless activity cannot endure indefinitely without prefiguring usefulness. This is the duality principle in operation and it is embraced by both metaphysicians and positivists.

Most ideas are fated to remain useless, confined to a single consciousness. But once shared, they become something in potentia, earning a spectral but observable ranking among all that which is transitioning into substantiality; either as entity or behavioural manifestation.

In the case of baseball, the two minds require the minimum equivalent of a ball in order to play catch. They will have already recontextualized something in nature that lends itself to being tossed back and forth, just as a branch of a fallen tree will be repurposed into something ready-at-hand that can strike a ball. This is how the game of baseball evolved into what we know it today, and its development tells the story of how an apparently useless activity is anything but.

So when we say “it’s just a game,” we think we are referencing an activity that is strictly diversionary and of no apparent consequence. But upon further investigation, we discover that baseball is equally only a game as well as the very real game of life that produces winners, losers and consequences which reach far beyond the field where the game unfolds. It is not for nothing that “the field of dreams” has become the game’s defining metaphor because from out of that field, out of that child’s innocence, a world of cause and effect is generated, such that the dreamer one day wakes to find his feet firmly planted on terra firma where the stakes are no less than the meaning of life.

Next batter up.
Salary = $7,000/plate appearance.


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also by Robert J. Lewis:


When Sex Became Dirty
Blood Meridian: (McCarthy): An Appreciation

Trump & Authencity

Language, Aim & Fire

One Hand Clapping: The Zen Koan Hoax

Human Nature: King of the Hill

The Trouble with Darwin
The Life & Death of Anthony Bourdain
Denying Identity and Natural Law
The Cares versus the Care-nots
Elon Musk: Brilliant but Wrong
As the Corporation Feasts, the Earth Festers
Flirting & Consequences
Breaking Bonds
Oscar Wilde and the Birth of Cool
The Big
Deconstructing Skin Colour
To Party - Parting Ways with Consciousness
Comedy - Constant Craving
Choosing Gender
Becoming Our Opposites
Broken Feather's Last Stand

Abstract Art or Artifice II
Old People
Beware the Cherry-Picker
Once Were Animal
Islam is Smarter Than the West
Islam Divided by Two
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene



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