The people past, present and future who help us evolve as a species in and of nature.
By Clement Borden
Competitive sports is a non-entity for most people in the conscious community, but it would be unjust to disregard some of the athletes who had no other choices in life but to excel and prosper in an industry that dominated the Western psyche, even beyond that of the film world. Baseball is in the air, and as unfortunate as that is for some of us who could care less, it does provide an opportunity to look at the rare figures in the game who did what they did, very much on their own terms, authentically and without inhibition.
One such unique individual was the pitching phenomena known as Satchel Paige. A product of the Negro Leagues of the southern U.S., Satchel was a sensation without particularly caring or even trying that hard to ‘make it’. He was a natural long before the term was used as a literary trope. Rather than continue as a baggage porter in an Alabama railway station, he parlayed his rangy physique into a human pitching machine. If he kicked a stone up with his shoe while walking home, he would grab it and launch it out of sight with his slingshot throwing arm. Once he found the sandlot, he was hooked. Playing baseball was more fun than working for a living.
And so began his minor league journey with uncountable teams and uncountable bus trips to and from ball parks. That lasted for close to 25 years, long enough to finally get him a shot at the major leagues when he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the ripe old age of 42.
Now, America’s multi-million dollar pastime know as baseball is not particularly the point here. Rather, it’s about Paige’s manner of play. The unusual grace combined with power that awed everyone who played with him and against, him were symbolic of his style. He is still regarded as the greatest pitcher the game has ever seen, and not just on account of his legendary fastball or that he did it so late in life. As they say, statistics don’t lie,…he truly owned the mound. However, there’s more to it than that, and it’s a matter that the number geeks pay no mind to: the immeasurable quality known as ‘serenity’.
Paige was devoid of anxiety and self-centered concern. Unlike the factory-bred and compulsively driven players of the modern era, he played in a state of perpetual calm and joy. Their was no egoistic machismo steering his psyche and no personal vengeance and hatred towards the opposition firing his soul. He simply played the game as a game and minded his own business before and after the fact.
When he retired in 1957 he left behind a philosophical legacy that even Lao Tzu would find enchanting. Throughout his playing career, Satchel Paige always made a good quote. He didn’t lean on the vacant stock response common to so many robotic players we see today. No, Satchel spoke from his heart, and when he did, it was grounded in deep truth and humanity. If he didn’t want to be bothered, he gave nothing.
Within that oratory trove were many lessons to help a soul navigate the echelons of society. A society that often makes us feel like uninvited guests, a world as foreign to him as it may be to some of us. So, while you work, dance and travel about remember to “Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful. Avoid running at all times. And… Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
And when you really feel the ecstatic urge coming on at the end of the week, say to yourself, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.” Leroy Satchel Paige would be proud of you.