Monday, June 13, 2005

Baseball and the Meaning of Life

I was reminded recently of the well-known teaching that the meaning of life is 42. Like others, I have not found this very helpful. But it occurred to me that, if our subject is life and death, baseball may hold the key. Look around at any ballpark for the numbers that have been retired: you will see the number 42. It was Jackie Robinson's number, honoured at every stadium in the Major Leagues.

Surely not a coincidence. But how to interpret this sign? I turned to Robinson for insight, and found the following aphorism:
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
So he claimed; and the words appear on his gravestone. Unfortunately, his view implies that life is meaningless. If the value of everything I do is instrumental, cashed out in terms of its effects on you, then it has value only if your life has value in turn. But, according to Robinson, the value of everyone's life is wholly instrumental, and thus depends on the value of others' lives... Value is always deferred; as Aristotle says, "it goes on without limit, so that desire proves empty and futile." It is only if a life can have final value, value for own sake, or in itself, that there can be value in acting on behalf of others.

I am afraid that the secret doctrine of baseball is that life is meaningless. But it sure is fun.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Matt Weiner said...

Perhaps he's a coherentist about the meaning of life. Actually coherentism about the meaning of life strikes me as quite sensible.

Have I ever told you about my coherence theory of directions?

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

W. H. Auden: "We are all here on earth to help others. What on earth the others are here for, I don't know."

9:35 PM  

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