Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Soulful Game: Watching Giants Baseball

In my last post, I talked about Freud and the roots of psychology. I talked about how the soul was ripped from psychology to placate the greed of an industry that should be devoted to healing.

I will return to why I'm a depth psychologist in a later post, but for now, I want to talk about baseball.

I grew up with baseball, so I suppose at some level, I like it by default. My dad is a former minor league pitcher, who then pitched his way through the Vietnam War for the Marines. He coached Pony League when I was a kid, and baseball season was pretty big for my entire extended family. I have several awesome childhood memories that center around my dad, but one of them is playing a game of softball at some work-related picnic, and both of us coming home to nurse our injuries. I recall looking up at him as he poured hydrogen peroxide over my skinned knee, acquired during a slide into home plate that I'm reasonably sure was unnecessarily dramatic, although at the age of ten or twelve, it was pretty important. It hurt like hell but I smiled through the pain, trying to be brave for my dad. When I was all grown up, I traveled to Toronto with him, and we took in a Blue Jays game while we were up there. I don't recall the score or even who won, but what I do remember is hanging out with him, sharing something that had been his passion in his own youth over a couple of hot dogs and Coke. There are several memories like that, all contributing to my love of this game.

I am a fairly recent transplant to the San Francisco Bay Area, and so for about a year I simply spent my time getting to know my way around. This year, I have had the pleasure of further entrenchment into the culture of the Bay Area, and I've done so in part by watching (as much as possible) the Giants play this game that is so dear to me.

They have not disappointed me. I watched on television as Jonathan Sanchez pitched a near-perfect game while his own father watched from the stands. I've watched our Gigantes sabotaged by some of the most ridiculous calls ever made by a refereeing authority (using THAT term loosely). And I've had the pleasure of seeing The Freak and The Big Unit throw some glorious pitches past batters, and felt the thrill of a watching a home run soar across the field launched by Aaron Rowand or our Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval. In a certain sense, all of it - the thrills and the frustrations - have led to my feeling that finally, since moving to the West Coast in 2001, I have come home.

From the perspective of soul, home is not about owning property or even having a stable address for a year or more. It has nothing to do with DMV listings, utility payments, or mortgage rates. Home, in a soulful sense, is about having a sense of belonging. The closest I had come on the West Coast was working at a runaway shelter in Santa Barbara. But even then, that was someplace I left every day to go to my domicile, which was only sometimes where I felt I truly belonged. This is not to say I did not make lifelong friends in SoCal, but simply that I always felt just a little...unsettled.

Here in the Bay Area, my sense of belonging is linked to the very landscape of this place. It includes natural sources of wonder that I've always found compelling, like redwood trees, mountains, and the huge and awesome Pacific Ocean. But it includes other sources of wonder that are embedded in the landscape - museums, places I've gone swing dancing, the fascinating city of San Francisco - in which I've found myself hopelessly lost and then gloriously at ease. But really, at the core of it, what makes me feel so wonderfully at home here is people.

Having a sense of "home" is deeply important to the psyche. We all need a place to which we can retreat - a place that is comfortable and secure, a place that feeds us and replenishes us. Our wellness, in a holistic sense, depends on this, and yet so many people live without this sense of home, this sense of belonging and acceptance and simple relaxation.

I have made friends easily here. The Bay Area is full of subcultures into which I can assimilate with surprisingly little effort - music, dance, gaming, academics, to name a few. Many of the friends I've made here are multi-dimensional, abundantly creative, wildly intelligent and passionate folk who seem like they're as enamored of this place as I am, whether they were born here or not.

And, I've met a lot of Giants fans. This season, I've discovered that rooting for the home team is a thread that weaves in and out of several of the Bay Area's subcultures. It is not the main source of connectedness between people and groups, but it is a reminder that there IS a connection. Even the name - The Giants - is a clue to the archetypal resonance of this team, the sport it plays, and its effect on the inhabitants of this region: titanic, larger-than-life, resounding, awe-inspiring.... In the regional psyche of the Bay Area, the team looms as large as its name, and perhaps as they slowly relax into that resonance, they will continue to play really incredible (and occasionally deeply disappointing) baseball, giving those of us who are watching stunning highs and heartbreaking lows, but always keeping us enthralled.

It's as if I've come full circle. From the home in which I was raised, to my new home by the Bay, this sport carries with it reminders, flavors, resonances of loving and wonderful people in my life - the kind of people that turn a place to live into a place I belong, into Home.

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