A Pastoral Dialogue on the Game of the Quadrature
by Robert Kelly
Pryn: You see where the batter stands--that's home plate, or home. If he gets a hit he runs to first, or second if he sometimes can, or sometimes third...
Str: I'm familiar with the game, for my sins. I played it as a child--never very good at it, kept losing interest.
Pryn: Where did you play?
Str: In Boeotia, where I was born.
Pryn: I mean, what position did you play?
Str: Right field mostly.
Pryn: It's far away.
Str: Nobody ever came out to visit me, at any rate
Pryn: The bases are ninety feet apart.
Pryn: I said, the bases are ninety feet apart from one another, along the course the runner must cover.
Pryn: The circuit around the square, the so-called rhomb or diamond, is three hundred sixty feet.
Pryn: The number of degrees in a circle. When a runner passes through all three hundred sixty, he comes home. A run is scored--a unit added to the sum of all experience.
Str: You are representing the runner as a kind of solar myth? Very interesting, in a fin-de-siecle way.
Pryn: Each base is an obstacle in his path, yet a qualifying of his course: a definition of it, in fact. Home is the vernal equinox, perhaps, and First the summer solstice. Second base, the keystone, is the autumn equinox, where we of the City start the year. Third base, most difficult of all, eccentric, chthonic, is the Winter solstice, where the sun turns round and the runner has his last chance at terra firma before he makes his sash for the goal.
Str: Sharmant, as I heard a Goth say the other day. But your analysis will work as well for any four-part thing.
Pryn: But it is not a solar myth, or sun god, you see. It is a man. That's the point: a man, and a ball comes at him.
Str: From another man. No God, no Hero.
Pryn: Yes, from the pitcher. Inside the diamond--sixty feet six inches away--again the theme of sixes. What is important is that it comes from inside the system.
Str: Why should that be important?
Pryn: Because the system is so designed, the world is so designed, that each gesture of matter, each new atomy of hydrogen, enters from inside, or appears to. Nothing is outside. Yet that Nothing is outside. Yet that Nothing must be a positive, or where would the gesture come from?
Str: At the risk of scoffing at your fugue, let me remind you that outfielders are outside. I should know, I was one.
Pryn: Consider the foul lines--they extend the diamond until the lines reach an impenetrable barrier, the outfield wall. The outfield, as an extension of the diamond, is thus the scope or scatter of the diamond's focus. It is the diamond's field of action, its implicit result. Note that wherever baseball is played, the exact measurements of the diamond are preserved, carefully and identically. But each stadium has its own outfield wall--no two are the same--they can vary considerably in size, height, texture, and (above all) distance from the plate. In other words, the precise rules of the game specify the diamond's measure, but only hint at the shape of the wall--specifying in fact only a minimum distance the foul lines must extend before they reach the outfield wall. This combination of rule and approximation means to preserve and signify the randomness we detect at every point of observation in the world. Our perceptual system cannot process every item into percept, nor can our brains process every percept into meaningful array with all other percepts. What falls outside the grid of our perceptual-interpretational system we call random.
Str: A flimsy use of the word, it seems to me. But don't talk to me about random--I've heard the sophists chew that one down to irreducible gristle. It means everything and nothing. In all rigor, there is no such thing as random.
Pryn: Or random is a range of possible events--like the outfield walls.
Str: This seems fetched far and sold dear, Prynikos. These thoughts surely do not vex the heads of those blundering boys down there on the field.
Pryn: Why should they? They are the dancers of a most ancient ritual...
Str: How boring, when everything is suddenly intuited as ritual!
Pryn: ...most ancient ritual, I say: the Squaring of the Circle. Which was always a dance. And never an equation. They are the dancers, each responsible only for his own conformity to what he guesses of the pattern. Years later, when he can use the insight, he will stand and watch, as we are doing, and then he will see. Boys don't need to know the things we're talking about, Strephon; it would do them harm and not good. Now they are perfect dancers, and as such they carry forward through time into the visible world these old mysteries.
Str: That is pretty; I'll allow that. But what mysteries?
JCBA Main Plate