A Pastoral Dialogue on the Game of the Quadrature
by Robert Kelly
Pryn: Come with me, Strephon, and I'll show you. The hill is easier than it looks. Leave your sheep with mine. Pedantic Corydon surely has another hour of talk in him, & will watch a little against the wolf while Alcman & Philaster drowse beneath his argument.
Str: I'll fill my pockets with dried figs, & pelt you with them if this climb isn't worth it.
Pryn: It will be worth your while if you keep your eyes open. We'll suck those figs together-- you may want to linger up there with me.
Str: That seems unlikely. This hill I notice doesn't even have a sacred grove--grass is all I see, & the top is just like the bottom. Hardly worth the climb. Especially for you, my fleshy friend.
Pryn: It isn't where we are but what we see. Look down there on that meadow. What do you see?
Str: I see little boys playing ball in the field. Is that your pleasure, voyeur, to look on graceful young men? I though your pleasure lay with girls--you've never sung us of Himeros & the love of like--maybe there's hope for you yet.
Pryn: Not in the sense that you mean. Not who or what the boys are, but what they do--that's why I'm here.
Str: Looks like baseball to me.
Pryn: That's what it is.
Str: A stupid game. They're not even naked as they play; it's slow, unathletic. It's so boring.
Pryn: Have you ever watched it at length?
Str: Among the merchants in Alexandria I have often stayed; those weary empty men turn on their television boxes & look at this, or seem to, while they repose from parched acts of commerce in the ,market, & count their assets. Really, what they watch is as boring as they are themselves--a perfect wedding, I think--a game that does not move watched by men who do not live. I mean, how can you find this interesting? How can you?
Pryn: There's something in the use of the game that's bad. And that's in our air, isn't it, the box your merchants watch, the air of their markets. They can turn all things rotten--if you feel you need to make such judgments. I'm content to watch. Watching is instructive, especially when I'm strong enough not to react; just watch.
Str: It still is nonsense. It might be fun to play the game. It might even be fun to play the game down there, your baseball, but there's nothing to watch. The pitcher fusses & preens, the batter dusts & fidgets. A ball is thrown. The batter watches it go by. Sometimes he swings at it; sometimes, though more rarely, his bat hits the ball. If it goes beside him, or behind, they forget all about it, except that some little kid chases the ball & brings it back long after it's forgotten. Sometimes the batter hits the ball ahead of him. Then all the hitherto motionless people begin to scurry around, the batter runs, they all run. But soon it all runs down like a cheap clock, & everything stops again. More fussing, preening, dusting, fidgeting, tapping the bat on the ground, hitching the pants, nervous gestures, suspicious peering in all directions. Nothing happens. A ball is thrown, the catcher catches it, the crowd roars, the batter goes away, a new one comes up. Nothing happens. Tell me, Prynikos, is that your idea of a holy play, a game? It should be a beautiful wedding of sense & intellect in muscled play. I have seen the oiled bodies of the wrestlers throwing & holding & being held--it flashes, Prynikos, flesh coming to flesh, giving the slip, the twist of it, the torque--my breath catches in my throat when I watch that, I feel each hold, I fall & am delivered, I writhe & triumph, & it all is beautiful.
Pryn: You're right, wrestling is beautiful, I say it gladly, but it teaches us nothing, or nothing that Love doesn't teach better.
Str: But that play is a form of Love, & what is this?
Pryn: This is the other side of love, the stages by which we go beyond the traps of love into Love for Love's sake, for Love's sake wielding our minds, Strephon, our minds in Love's service.
Str: What are you talking about? You mean fantasy?
Pryn: I mean perception. Love is to perceive & be perceived.
Str: So they say.
Pryn: I mean the this & the that, the proportions by which all experiences are united in the experiencer. That was Egypt before there ever was an Alexandria. This game teaches us to see.
Str: I think a Persian juggler, a Magician with sleight of hand could teach that better--the eye is quicker than the hand, after all, when it's trained & ready. That idiom I hear so often: Keep you eye on the Ball: if your baseball teaches that, & I suppose it does since there's nothing else to watch, then it's of some service, I guess. But that's just a metaphor, Prynikos, if you see it once, you've seen it all.
Pryn: Truth in what you say. If you do truly see something once, whole and entire, then that is once for all. How often do we see that way, though? Even the best of us shepherds loses count--especially when we start looking for something; then all we naturally see we don't see at all. We're just looking for, not seeing. The anxious eye cancels out the world.
Str: See, don't see, what has all this to do with baseball?
Pryn: I'm not sure, but we were talking about baseball, so it led us here.
Str: It led you there. I'm still wondering why it's worth your while to watch this game, and worth mine to climb up here with you. Want a fig?
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