Warning: baseball and philosophy

The Red Sox are done for 2005 – cooked in three quick games. The pain of elimination, one year after winning it all, is nothing like that same pain in years past. It is nothing remotely like the pain of the 2003 post-season, in which some demon scripted a particularly cruel eleventh-hour defeat at the hands of the Yankees.

These days, that loss is seen primarily as a dramatic backstory to the championship that followed. But I suspect that I am not alone in finding the loss in 2003 to be a more magnetic and beguiling memory even than the unbelievable victory in 2004. This is not nostalgia for defeat, more a sense of touching something deeper. There is a particular song I listened to often during the 2003 race, a haunting instrumental piece called “Lauren’s Waltz.” To this day, whenever I hear it, I am suddenly back in that moment of loss and punished hope. So close. The sense of frustrated longing was so aching, so piercing and intense. Of course much of my own personal pain was projected onto that loss… there is an implicit promise that victory in sports means victory over all adversity. Why should defeat be more memorable than victory? Because in life we do not win the way one wins a baseball game. All longing, once requited, is simply replaced by more longing, an endless cycle which must ultimately be frustrated. There is no end to longing, only to life. I ache therefore I am. 2004 was an embrace of victory. Victory is joyous, brash, impermanent. She will leave. 2003 was an embrace of unrequited longing. She is the one who will always love you. Love her, and you can know peace.

Losing brings fellowship, fellow-suffering, togetherness. After 2003, the old diehard Sox fans said to the new recruits “See how painful it is? Come sit over here by me. I understand.” After 2004, some said “I paid my dues, did you? Do you deserve to celebrate with me?”

I don’t regret winning for a instant. But the lessons of losing are worthwhile.

LibraryThing

I’m obsessed with LibraryThing, and there’s a good chance, if you’re much of a book person, you will be obsessed with it too. LibraryThing is a service that lets you build your own virtual library online. As such, you can use it to represent your real bookshelf, books you wish you owned, or even the bookshelf you will have in heaven when you complete your last earthly chapter.

Like a lot of bookstore loiterers, I have more books than shelf space. LibraryThing solves a big problem for me. I can see and organize my books online without having to schlep around their physical counterparts. I had been admiring the bookshelf software called Delicious Monster, but LibraryThing is much better. It’s net-based, and it’s got the social aspects of del.icio.us and others.

Here’s my catalog so far.

Entropy downpours and clogged entropy drains

When your shoelace snaps, that’s entropy, a tiny fragment of universal decay that drips onto your back from an obscure and lingering extra-dimensional cloud. If you are prepared for this kind of sporadic unraveling, you go find your extra shoelaces in the top drawer of your dresser, whistle a happy tune, re-lace your shoe and away you go. The entropy has drained away, for now anyway, and you can continue living in merry denial of the second law of thermodynamics.

But sometimes, either through lack of planning, laziness, or both (mea culpa), these desultory drip-drops can turn into a regular downpour of fraying entropy. This week my watchband broke, then my computer started to fail, then my web host account stopped working, and then the rattle in my car (just off warranty) turned out to require $1200 worth of repair thereby failing its overdue inspection.

I don’t mention these things to claim that my troubles are severe, but you do get the feeling, when you get caught in an entropy storm, that something is going terribly wrong, and it’s going wronger faster than you can fix it. It’s as if there’s an accelerating feedback loop. The entropy drainpipes are clogged and you can see it pooling up around you like a dark corrosive tide. At times like this, you just have to concentrate on one thing at a time. The zen of Getting Things Done can rescue you by insisting that you pick one thing and fix it. I was amazed how much better I felt just dropping off my watch at the watch repair store. That cleared the drain enough for me to change web hosts and make an appointment for my suffering car. Tomorrow I re-install Windows to clean the gremlins off this machine… wish me luck! The cloud has backed off momentarily, and I can pretend it doesn’t exist again. In my memories it never does. And where does all that entropy drain to anyway? Best not to think about it.

Which reminds me: What did Mr. Death say after he stopped by for a drink?

“See you later!”