Smackdab, I think that’s a western Kansas theological term, in the middle of the summer. It feels like there’s more summer behind us than in front of us, July 4 is kind of that marking point. Now it’s simply hot and humid and time to ask the tough questions.
Will the Royals make the playoffs? Maybe a wildcard spot? They are a second-half strong team, maybe they pass the Tigers, catch Cleveland (a bit unlikely) and win the division. And what if they fade? Seriously, can the late summer and fall of 2015 ever really be repeated in this town? A streak through the playoffs with only a blip of a loss here and there and a World Series some might say we were destined to win. It’s once in a lifetime – that mix of players, that team chemistry, that manager who seemed nothing less than unorthodox in his line-up and yet every decision he made seemed to work. The parade, the gathering at Union Station, life seemed to stop in this city and the surrounding areas because for the first time in 30 years, the Kansas City Royals won the AL Pennant and the World Series. Now that’s how the summer should come to a close. But what if it doesn’t?
The Dead Poet’s Society starring Robin Williams is one of my favorite movies. It came out a few years ago . . . o.k., it came out in 1989, but the message is timeless. Robin Williams is a teacher in a private boys academy which, by its exclusionary nature and the elite position of their families, teaches extreme conformity for present and future success in the world of wealth. Into this context, Robin Williams (Mr. Keating), challenges the boys to risk knowing themselves, their own minds, their own thoughts, their own creativity. One vehicle of this knowledge is the power of poetry. He challenges them to risk seeing life from a different perspective and in the midst of making his point, he recites Whitman’s poem, O Me! O Life! Can we risk living life fully in the present moments we have? Can we allow ourselves to be passionate about that which we believe? Does the power of the “Word” actually have a way of changing the world one person, one story, maybe even one poem at a time?
So what does that have to do with baseball? With the last half of summer? With faith?
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
Robin Williams pointedly asks the students what unique verse they will contribute to life around them, to their community, to the world?
What verse did a baseball team contribute to the life of this city a year ago? Did it matter at the parade if you were young or old, rich or poor, shared the same ethnic background, voted for the same political party, lived in the same economic strata? Or did somehow the verse this team contributed to our region move us past the need to polarize and label? If only for a season?
It’s hot, it’s humid, the summer is winding down, it’s time to watch a few old movies, listen to some good music, maybe even read (or write) a few poems. After all, “the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse”. What verse might that be?