Todd Walton: Giants and Greece


“We don’t have to look far to see how pervasive suffering is in the world.” Joseph Goldstein

Matt Cain recently pitched a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants while Greece is in the midst of a massive economic collapse. Gregor Blanco made one of the great catches in Giants history to preserve Cain’s perfecto while Spain is in economic freefall with over 25% unemployment and Spanish real estate prices falling falling falling. Cain gave his catcher Buster Posey much of the credit for the no-no while Syria is in the midst of a horribly bloody civil war with thousands of casualties, many of them women and children.

Cain’s perfect game is only the twenty-second perfect game in the 130-year history of baseball while the Japanese government has ordered the restarting of several of their dangerously unsafe nuclear power plants despite a vast majority of the Japanese people opposed to nuclear power in the wake of the ongoing catastrophic meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

And how about Melky Cabrera, the Melkman, leading the National League in hitting while the American economy is collapsing around our ears. True, Tim Lincecum is having an awful year so far and Barry Zito is showing signs of faltering after a strong start, but the rest of the Giants starters are pitching magnificently while California’s budget deficit is several billion dollars more than state officials anticipated, though anyone with half a brain knew that such drastic cuts in government spending would guarantee equally drastic economic contraction.

“We may have compassion for the victims of social or political injustice, but can we feel compassion for those who perpetrate that injustice?” Joseph Goldstein

For many years I have been in the habit of listening to Giants baseball games on a little silver transistor radio I carry from room to room and out into the garden. When I lived in Berkeley, I had a neighbor who was bothered by my interest in the Giants, and he told me so one day when he found me in my vegetable patch listening to a game while I pulled weeds and watered.

“You’re such an intelligent person,” he said, shaking his head. “How can you listen to that meaningless junk when there’s so much suffering in the world?”

This fellow, I hasten to add, walked his talk. He was a medical doctor who worked long hours in a clinic for poor people and spent the rest of his time reading books about social injustice and political corruption and writing passionate letters to government officials and marching against social injustice and wars waged for corporate hegemony. He lived frugally and gave away most of the money he made to help fund the clinic where he worked, so…

“This is an antidote to my own suffering,” I replied, comforted by the inimitable ambience only baseball on the radio provides. “A form of guided meditation.”

“Sponsored by earth-killing corporations,” he said, pointing at my radio dangling amidst the snow pea vines. “Listen. Yet another ad for Chevron.”

“I studiously do not buy gas from Chevron,” I said—an easy boast since I didn’t own a car.

“But why do you like that garbage?” he asked, visibly upset. “You like basketball, too, don’t you?”

“Love basketball,” I said, nodding. “Basketball was my salvation and succor for many years.”

“And you actually care who wins?” He sighed despondently. “What a waste.”

“I care and I don’t care,” I said, as one of our boys led off the seventh with a single. “The game matters in the moment and doesn’t matter in the next moment. I’m not attached once the game is over. For long.”

“But do you know why the major corporations sponsor these games?” he asked, waving his arms in frustration. “Because it keeps people occupied so they won’t take any meaningful action to create substantive change. It’s a mechanism of social control. And look what they’re selling. Gasoline, beer, cars, insurance, computers, plastic, Las Vegas.”

“So what do you think I should do?” I asked, trying not to hold him responsible for altering the game with his negative attitude (see quantum physics) and causing the double play that just wiped out our first decent scoring opportunity since the first inning. “I don’t have a television or a car or health insurance or really much of anything except a piano, a guitar, a very slow computer, and things to cook with. You want me to toss the little radio and take a vow of chastity and silence? Gimme a break, it’s baseball. I love baseball. I played baseball growing up. Baseball is in my bones, in my blood.”

“Entrained since childhood,” he said, nodding dolefully. “That’s what they do. Cradle to grave entrainment disguised as entertainment.”

Then it hit me: this guy did not play baseball growing up. Baseball was not in his bones, in his blood. He did not understand what I was experiencing when I listened to a game on the radio because he had no real understanding of the language of baseball. He might as well have been listening to someone speaking Greek, assuming he didn’t understand Greek, which I think is a fair assumption.

And the moment I realized that his antipathy was as much about what he didn’t understand about baseball as it was about what he did understand about corporate control of the media, I was filled with compassion and said, “Want any lettuce? I have a vast surplus in need of harvesting.”

“Love some,” he said, his frown giving way to a smile.

“Compassion is the tender readiness of the heart to respond to one’s own or another’s pain, without resentment or aversion.” Joseph Goldstein

There are only eleven million people in Greece, about a quarter of the population of California, and because Greece is so small, relatively speaking, the annihilation of Greek society by their corrupt government in collusion with their corrupt banking system is easier to discern than the annihilation of American society by our corrupt government in collusion with our corrupt banking system. But the mechanisms of both annihilations are identical (not to mention intertwined), and what unfolds in Greece is predictive of things about to unfold here if the powers-that-be don’t quickly and dramatically shift current fiscal policy away from austerity to something resembling the stimulating policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

That is to say, a small minority of unscrupulous people in the banking/government system of America, stole trillions of dollars from the people of America, kept billions of those dollars in their personal bank accounts, and gambled away the rest. Then when the financial system began to totter and fall, these same criminals stole trillions more to prop up the markets and the banks a little while longer—which is where we are today.

In their most recent election, enough Greeks were scared by erroneous propaganda into voting for the same criminals who created the current economic mess so that the annihilation of their country will continue, in the same way that enough Americans in our upcoming election will be scared into voting for the same criminals who created our portion of the global mess so the annihilation of our country and the world will continue.

The good news is that the Giants are doing remarkably well this season and are poised to make a strong run in the second half. If Lincecum can get back on track and Pablo will shed twenty pounds and stop swinging at high pitches out of the strike zone, and if Blanco can keep getting on base ahead of Melky, and Melky and Buster keep hitting well, and Crawford keeps being Crawford, we might very well go deep into the post season if not all the way to the World Series. And once there, as we know from recent experience, anything is possible.

As Charles Dickens wrote to begin A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

And as Joseph Campbell said so eloquently on his eightieth birthday, “The field of time is a field of sorrow. Life is sorrowful. How do you live with that? You realize the eternal within yourself. You disengage and yet re-engage. You—and here is the beautiful formula: you participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.”
(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser June 2012)


Dave Smith recently wrote, both in his blog and in the Ukiah Journal, that he really appreciated Todd Walton and TWK for their steadfast creative production under deadline.
This piece is great, and I personally take inspiration from the quotes Todd uses, and his whole context.

I can remember growing up in my small Upstate New York river town, and going to the barbershop for my haircut, and the “radio” would be playing whatever baseball game was on, and the slow moving ” … and its a baaaallllll”, and “so and so is walking to the plate”, the sultry drawn out day, the drawn out action, the ceiling fan going around, the occasional speeding up of the sportscasters voice as the action unfolded. Very restful, and for me at age, I guess maybe 9, ll, 14, I’ve no idea, stuff of no consequence but part of the background of life.

But then, this business of the world and the relevant themes that might be concerning to us all, in the midst of the culture of political apathy and ignorance of the issues underlying the economic convulsions of our time – one day, I guess about three years ago? Not sure, but I was walking along State Street, and the UHS Homecoming parade was in flagrante delecto, in my view, as the ultimate manifestation of what American kids get to do by contrast with their peers everywhere else in our world, and was passing by the Mulligan Shop, where Dave and some friend were standing outside, and I commented about the “stupidity” – don’t actually remember my words, but they more or less conveyed my feelings –

Well, Dave in a kind of calm, laid back way, said “Hey, they’re just kids”.

Never resolved that small “confrontation”, I guess you’d have to call it. There was no further conversation, but I think it served to create a long lasting burr in my butt, small pimple in my brain, whatever, concerning the triangulation, the kids, my attitude, and Dave’s attitude.

Its OK, Dave. Todd fixes that up. And when America joins Greece, we’ll have our day.

I suspect that if we were to ask, Joseph Goldstein would instruct us on the second of the Buddha’s four fold truths. I’m a poor substitute, but here goes. In what may be its earliest statement, it is recorded, “There is the origin of suffering, which is attachment to desire.” “Dukka”, the Pali word that is usually translated as “suffering”, then referred to the screech of a wheel turning on an ungreased axle. It’s not about desire per se; it’s about hanging on, mentally screeching. I’m reminded of a picture of a cat hanging on for dear life to a bar, even though the floor was not far beneath. It strikes me that Todd may desire that the Giant win, but I don’t hear any screeching in this regard, which contrasts with his neighbor’s and Todd’s voicing of his other concerns. Has there ever been a time when attachments to desires have been so pervasive? Where is it getting us? Yes, of course, I have a long list of desires for the healing of the Earth and of humankind, but, realistically, I’m one in seven billion and attachment to any substantial end would be a foolish waste of my time. I can and do, on the other hand, desire to live my life as if, take pleasure in this great adventure, and not waste my time beating my chest.

    That last piece of trite so-called Buddhist passivism is something we’ve heard over and over again from those who regard any sort of “activism” as “chest beating”. Tell the starving child that his/her desire to assuage hunger is an “attachment to (a) substantial end”. I don’t believe Joseph Goldstein would decry any social critique that exposes today’s pervasive economic inequality. The processes of a revived activist citizenry are sorely in need of lubrication, because the “screeching wheel” is exactly what our national dysfunction is all about. BTW, I often am amazed at the four fold this, and the nine fold that, and the 21 points of wisdom and other strange counting games that emanate from the gurus of traditional Buddhism, Chinese or Tibetan.

I LOVE this piece… yes to have an expansion of consciousness to include both.. both and everything… and we actually feel freer and lighter the more we dont hold down to ONE viewpoint. thanks Todd!!!!

Don & Krauss–there’s a famous photo of Ted Williams & Joe Dimaggio, standing together on the steps of an All-star dugout. Take the message.

Just popping back in here, just to see whose looking for trouble :). Aha, someone named Suspiry rises above the fray. Message? Are Don and I great champions of something or other? But this isn’t a debating column, so I’ll just suck my thumb and go away. I’ll not challenge Don to a duel in the godly sky.