a baseball classic

This year’s Major League Baseball World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, with Houston leading 3-2 in a best-of-seven game format, already has been declared by some sports pundits as a classic. Both teams possess great pitching and batting, the Dodgers perhaps leading in the former and Houston, the latter, and two of the five games have extended into extra innings with the last at bat determining the winner. Born and raised in St. Louis, I grew up watching and loving the Cardinals and this series brings back fondest memories of regaling in the finest moments of America’s national pastime.

However, a non-baseball-related, but rather a manifestly cultural incident, one that hovers over the current roiling waters of societal discontent, has riveted my attention.

This past Friday, in game 3, Astros player Yuli Gurriel, after hitting a home run, motioned toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent. Gurriel placed his hands on the sides of his face, pulling and slanting the corners of his eyes.

Unsurprisingly, the reactions have been swift.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Gurriel would be suspended without compensation for five games at the beginning of the 2018 season; believing it would not be fair to the Astros team to exact the penalty during the current series…

The Astros management, expressing shock at Gurriel’s behavior, supports Manfred’s ruling…

Gurriel has apologized to Darvish, declaring his respect for him as a player and as a person and for the Japanese people…

Some, interpreting Gurriel’s action as a racist slur against Asian Americans, are outraged…

Others consider Gurriel’s gesture a-caught-on-camera-adrenaline-fueled-in-heat-of-the-unfortunate-moment…

Still others have seen the incident as a display of minority-vs.-minority stereotyping; and, viewed through that lens, all the more regrettable; especially in Houston, one of America’s most ethnically and racially diverse cities.

In a tweet, Darvish wrote: No one is perfect. That includes both you and me. What he (did) today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and moving forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.

Mr. Darvish, your words, for me, are a classic expression of compassion, comprehension, and consideration. May your hope be fulfilled.

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I’m sorry…(I’m sorry, but) one more (final? maybe!) thought

My friend Sandra Koenig, responding to my previous blog post (October 27, 2017: I’m sorry…still, another thought), wrote poignantly and eloquently of the relationship between apology and forgiveness. I replied to her, “Thank you, Sandy. It has occurred to me that there is a decided connection between apologizing and forgiving. Perhaps another blog post is in the offing!”

Well, Sandy, here you are!

Given my natural drift of thought, there is much I might write about the developmental theological and philosophical, biblical and historical sweep of the acts and, again, I say, the arts of apology and forgiveness. However, for whatever reason or reasons, today, grounded in a wholly existential state of mind, one conspicuous thought arises. That is, the result, both immediate and ongoing, when one does or does not regularly engage (assuming in every relationship, whether personal or professional, collegial or adversarial, manifold are the occasions that arise of the necessity for) the practice of apology and forgiveness.

Three points…

First, I digress. It seems to me that both apology and forgiveness ontologically (by nature) are risk-taking acts, arts that require, demand visceral courage and fortitude to look inward acknowledging the fault, the friction, and the fracture in one’s relationship with one’s self and with another, and then to look outward to another, saying, I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” (or “I ask for your forgiveness”).

Second, the result of the practice of apology and forgiveness, I believe, is the expansion of one’s capacity for personal growth. Not to practice apology and forgiveness is personally diminishing, lessening one’s capacity for growth.

Third, at least I have found this – the first and second points – to be true for, in me.

I’m sorry…still, another thought

Apologizing is more than an act, more than the auditory human activity of uttering the words, “I’m sorry”, but rather, at its heart, is an art – like any work of art – requiring ingenuity, integrity, and initiative.

Ingenuity. For me to apologize, I must[1] exercise my imagination to dream my way into the worldview of another, so to comprehend a perspective other than my own. To apologize, I must be able not only to realize that another is hurt, so to be able to say, at minimum, “I understand that you’re hurt”, but also to recognize her/his manner of thinking and feeling, so to be able to say, at more than minimum, “I understand (see) you, thus, why and how you are hurt.”

Integrity. For me to apologize, I must examine myself, indeed, my self (my psyche, soul), so to claim honestly my role and responsibility, so to be able to say, “I understand (see) what I have done (or not done), said (or not said) that caused you hurt.”

Initiative. For me to apologize, I must extend myself, moving beyond my ability to apologize into that essential state of willingness to say, “I’m sorry.”

 

Footnote:

[1] I employ the word “must” (which, in league with “ought” and “should”, I consider to be a heavily-weighted-and-freighted moral term), for apology, given that the occasion of its necessity always originates in the realm of human relationships, bears an inherently ethical dimension.

I’m sorry…another thought

O’er the years, along with Pontheolla’s patient and persistent nudging,[1] it occurs to me that there was…is another elemental influence upon me, teaching me to learn how to say, “I’m sorry.” My life as a pastor.

In this role and responsibility, many times I have said “I’m sorry”, yes, for things I didn’t do or say that I should have done or said or for things I did do or say that I shouldn’t have done or said, yet also and mostly as my earnest expression of sorrow in response to life’s difficulties endured by the countless people who have confided in me.

O’er the years, as I reflect, most folk who have shared with me the anguished chapters and verses of their lives didn’t expect or desire that I do anything other than to lend love’s listening ear. From these manifold human encounters, there is an image, a scene of life’s drama fixed in my remembrance; one that has occurred over and over again…

Having poured out her/his soul’s anguish, s/he sits, hands tightly clasped, head lowly bowed. For some time, and then more time, all is silent and still. Slowly, s/he raises her/his head, her/his eyes searching, finding, gazing fixedly into mine. I softly utter the words, “I’m sorry.” In nearly every instance, s/he replies as softly, “Thank you.” And more than half of the time, s/he adds, “But why are you sorry? You didn’t cause this.” And I respond, “I am sorry because if I could, I would move heaven and earth for this not to be so for you.”

O’er the years, listening, loving, I have been taught by others who took the exquisite risk to open their souls to me to sorrow with them as if their anguish were mine own. Though I would want no such thing for them, I would want nothing other for me than to be and to bear with them in their pain.

 

Footnote:

[1] See my previous blog post, I’m sorry… (October 23, 2017)

I’m sorry…

No one arrives at any place or state of being of good or ill without the help or hurt of countless – some sometimes known, perhaps most oft unseen – hearts and hands. This is one of the functional lenses and operational axioms through which I view and interpret life in this world, particularly human behaviors or misbehaviors.

In my own experience, I was raised in a household of loving parents who, I believe, given their – in my mother’s case, strict and in my father’s, unsettled – upbringings, in their zeal that I be formed and shaped to be an ethically responsible person tended to be incessant in their criticism and intermittent in affirmation and acceptance; all with a decidedly Christian moral overlay. Though they did not succeed in bridling what they duly observed was my rambunctious spirit, perhaps in a manner they did not intend, they nurtured my skepticism, verily, my uncertainty about the intentions of others, especially those nearest and dearest. Hence, I travelled the course of adolescence and arrived at adulthood with a long practiced and perfected guardedness. Though I was often outwardly gregarious, I maintained a private inner world of reserve; one of the less than commendable manifestations of which was (not an inability, but rather) a lethargy about admitting fault. To acknowledge wrongdoing was to expose myself to more censure; the daily dosages I received in my household being more than enough.

I share this, yes, to confess that it took a long time before I developed the ability and willingness to employ frequently those two sacred words essential to all human relating: I’m sorry. (Pontheolla has been and continues to be my finest, fairest teacher. O’er the course of more than 30 years, she, with muscular, matchless patience, has taught me the mutual benefit of saying, “I’m sorry,” and then, in response to her probing, searing question, “For what?”, to dig deeper, exposing more of myself, indeed, my self to profess with naked honesty my wrong; which is to say, more than my acknowledgement that she was hurt by whatever I did or said or didn’t do or say.)

This comes to my mind and heart as I reflect on the latest episode of President Donald Trump’s seeming inability and demonstrable unwillingness to say, “I’m sorry.” His words of condolence proved less than consoling for Mrs. Myeshia Johnson on the occasion of the death of her husband, Sergeant La David Johnson. Notwithstanding the public and unpleasant contretemps between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Johnson and her supporters, it seems to me that Mr. Trump, recognizing that his intention did not satisfy Mrs. Johnson’s expectation (as always is the risk in every human interaction), would be fairly and faithfully served to say, “I’m sorry.” That he has not (cannot?), I, reviewing my own history, sympathetically am led to wonder. Where and how in his nurturance was he hurt making the art of apology beyond his capacity and desire?