Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Bonds of 'Freedom'...

Thomas Boswell
The heart of the moral order?
(Image from Amazon.com)

Anyone who has read my article "Economy of Damnation: Satan's Fall in Paradise Lost" (Milton and Early Modern English Studies 15.2 (2005.11)) will know that Milton presents Satan's rebellion against the moral order and for unbounded freedom as merely delivering the falling archangel over to the bonds of his own fallen character, such that he is driven by his contending desires and unguided by the moral reasoning that had characterized his pre-fallen state.

Not even able to choose grace, he is beyond redemption.

Anyone intrepid enough to subject one's self to reaching the article can go to the MEMES website, ignore the annoying pop-up, click on "Publications," and run the cursor down to click on the fourth item in the list (학회지보기), which takes one's self to the online journal where one's self can click on Milton and Early Modern English Studies 15.2 and read a pdf of my article, "Economy of Damnation: Satan's Fall in Paradise Lost."

Or just click on the article title in my previous sentence and subject one's self to the article alone.

But if that doesn't tempt you, then read instead Thomas Boswell's Washington Post article for March 12, 2007, "Don't Make Bonds A Guilty Pleasure," for an erudite and penetrating analysis of Barry Bonds steroid-driven, diabolical quest for Hank Aaron's home run record. Let me whet your appetite with some choice quotes:
Barry Bonds wants to overshadow this entire baseball season and harm the sport he has grown to hate and wants to hurt....

A year ago, there was hope that Bonds would simply fade away, worn down by age, injury and, perhaps, baseball's history of undeserved good luck. "I don't even want to play next year," Bonds said last year during spring training. "Baseball is a fun sport. But I'm not having fun. I've never cared about records anyway, so what difference does it make."

Now the tune has changed utterly. Disgusted with appearing weak and, in his mind, appeasing his enemies, Bonds has embraced the dark side. "I'm playing until I'm 100," he now says. "You guys get used to me"....

If Bonds's current defiant stance seems to have more depth than his whiny demeanor last spring, then there's probably a simple reason. Bonds is echoing one of our oldest and most emotionally complex archetypes -- the fallen angel, the proud, ambitious transgressor who is hurled from heaven.

Who knew a left fielder could stumble into such classic material?

"Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," Milton's Satan decided in "Paradise Lost." "To be weak is miserable. . . . My sentence is for open war, which, if not victory, is yet revenge."

Many have agreed with the poet William Blake that Milton drew such a sympathetic portrait of Satan that he was "of the Devil's party without knowing it." There may be a similarly perverse temptation in our antihero culture to shrug and give Bonds a free pass into baseball history.
There's an old cliché that baseball is like life. A terrific riff on the cliché is that baseball isn't really like life because baseball is much more important than that. Turns out, baseball is so epic in scope that it's even intimately involved in the metaphysical struggle between good and evil and thus reflects the pre-cosmic war in heaven between the fallen and the unfallen angels.

But you've already sensed this if you've seen The Natural or the even earlier Damn Yankees.

Still, it's good to be reminded, so if you want good sports writing leavened with erudite moral reasoning, read Boswell's article.

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6 Comments:

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Dave said...

baseball is so epic in scope that it's even intimately involved in the metaphysical struggle between good and evil and thus reflects the pre-cosmic war in heaven between the fallen and the unfallen angels

I once wrote an article where I addressed this question of whether baseball could reflect the conflict between good and evil. I had gone to a baseball game where, providentially, the home team had worn white and the visiting team had worn black.

I ended by concluding that the game did not symbolize the conflict between good and evil:

"The Indians had decisively shut out the Skychiefs (13-0) not because of their intrinsic goodness, but because they played a better game."

 
At 12:06 AM, Blogger usinkorea said...

After reading your post about Milton's classic becoming a movie, I blogged along the lines of the comments I made to that post

http://usinkorea.org/blog1/?p=404

I wondered how today's audience would respond to the great speeches Satan makes and talked about the Romantic hero and how some of them seemed to miss Milton's point. I wondered if the movie would do the material just, and if it did, how contemporary society would react to it.

On Bonds, I will be interested to see how many times he gets beened this season. He wasn't exactly the most popular player in the league before he steroided up.

After that, he also got walked a whole lot as teams decided to pitch around him. I imagine they will do that again this season --- and I bet the closer he gets to the record, rather than just pitching outside to walk him, they'll start head hunting or trying to drill a fastball through his back.

I know I would...

 
At 1:26 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Barry Bonds compared to Milton's Satan? How the fallen angels have fallen!

 
At 4:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dave, the great Martin Luther King once commented that God has thrown us a good curve ball, in that "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it arcs toward justice," so over God's long, stretched out innings, through a series of games, "intrinsic goodness" would win out.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

USinK, I'll take a look at your blog entry. I like your blog, but it always downloads slowly for me, so I don't check it as often as I'd like.

As for walking Bonds to prevent his surpassing Aaron's record, the pitchers really ought to do that. Bonds could console himself with a different record: Batter Most-Walked in a Season.

And the fans could jeer him each time he walks down that dusty path...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

KM, according to C. S. Lewis, Satan declines from a seemingly heroic general, to a spy, to a peeping Tom, to a toad, to a snake, and -- as we now know -- even so low as to become a steroid-driven baseball player named Barry Bonds.

Jeffery Hodges

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