It was exactly the kind of game I love. Pennant race, division rivals, team aces (Bartolo Colon and Barry Zito) matching zeros head-to-head, crisp defense, extra innings, and the game decided by a small break off a top-notch reliever. (Well, perhaps not so small: Bobby Kielty hit a monster home run off a Frankie Rodriguez fastball.)
For a regular season game in August, it doesn't get any better than that.
I had speculated that my desire to win might make this series too too tense to take. But as the game progressed, desire dissolved into appreciation. I became consumed by the sheer aesthetic joy of watching a game well played.
I'm not sure why. Games like this, with so much impact on a pennant race, usually have me shouting things at the TV, and throwing things at the sofa. But perhaps, spiritually, it was exactly the attitude I needed at this moment in my life.
It was a lesson in the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism: desire is the cause of suffering. By about the fourth inning or so, I had let go of the desire to win. The game became bliss.
When Robb Quinlan hit the home run to tie the game in the eighth, it did not bother me. Everything was exactly as it should be.
I'm sure this moment of spiritual 'enlightenment' is temporary. It is comforting to know that this mental state is available to me when I need it. But I am not a monk trying to follow The Path. When my psyche is ready to handle the suffering, I'll be back to my old ways, wanting to win. I have no desire to live without desire.
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Or perhaps this 'zen' feeling isn't really a religious experience at all; perhaps it's just brain chemicals. In Mind Wide Open, Steven Johnson explains how his wife had a very calm, almost indifferent, reaction to September 11, because she was breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding, and other life experiences that involve intense emotional attachment, such as childbirth and sexual climax, causes a chemical called oxytocin to be released in the bloodstream. Oxytocin puts you in a calm and nurturing mood. It's an alternative survival solution to the fight-or-flight stress responses: tend-and-befriend. It's the chemical of social bonding, parent-child bonding in particular.
Perhaps because I've spent the last five days intensely tending to my daughter's illness, my bloodstream is flooded with more oxytocin than usual. The testosterone-driven fight-or-flight response I normally have to the stress of a baseball game got replaced by a completely different and opposite response.
* * *
Hmm...maybe there's Mel Gibson movie to be made from this. I'll start working on the screenplay right away.