Are we pitchers or catchers?

28 Feb

             What faith and poetry share is awe, the life of wonder.  The essence of awe is captured in poet Jack Spicer’s words, “Poets think they are pitchers, when they are really catchers.”  To stand in awe is to allow catching to shape us.


            Such thoughts run through a book I mentioned last time, A God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith.  In the Introduction, editors Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler comment on the difficulties we have in conversing about spirituality in our society today:  “. . . irony holds sway over much of our public intellectual life, and a dialogue about faith asks us to set aside irony for a direct engagement with beauty, hope, doubt, and fear.”  They seek ways to discuss faith “outside the polarized, and polarizing, influences of ideological religious politics.”


Think for a moment about the public discussion that might follow in this vein.  What difference would it make if we started with an image of ourselves as catchers?  We feel the pressure today to present ourselves as able pitchers.  Imagine if a prospective student wrote her college application essay on the theme, “The most important things I’ve caught.”  Period.  It reminds me of the 1960s slogan, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”  Job-creators have become the culture heroes du jour, and a job-creating society wants to know what you’re pitching—not what you’ve been catching. 


            How would our public discussion be altered if we exchanged ideas of what is awesome for us?  Not sharing our views of God, or asking whether there is a God, or describing our religious communities or our beliefs about abortion or stem cells, but rather asking about what gives us meaning.  Surely, some will say, this makes it all about God.  Yes, about how we experience God functioning in our lives—whether we call it God or not–not “god” as a word or an idea or a belief.  Let us call this our conversation about the Big Catch.


Last time, I talked about soul and soul-shape.  Perhaps soul is that which reveals to us the foundations of awe and makes it possible for us to be receivers.


One responder to my last blog posting said that when she changed her name some years ago, she chose the Hebrew word for “soul” as her middle name—neshamah.  Another said “this morning the soul shapes into the form of a cardinal.”  These comments sound like openings for conversation about receiving.  Our experience of the soul’s mystery is personal, but we are enhanced by catching the stories others tell us about life in their zones of awe.


If there must be a god in the house, must be,

Saying things in the room and on the stair,

Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor,

Or moonlight, silently. . .

                        (Wallace Stevens)

3 Responses to “Are we pitchers or catchers?”

  1. Jean Lesher March 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    I love the story of a secular person who said “I never believed in God until I heard Beethoven.” An epiphanic event in his life. I hope we all know what that is like. I am creating a photo montage to frame and hang on our wall of images of our “heroes” (I’m searching for a non-military term) we’ve met or who lived during the lifetimes of — those whose awesome lives have inspired us. So far: Ghandi, Mandela, King, Roosevelts (him & her) and maybe adding Tutu, Dahli Lama, etc. (women were so marginalized most of our lives). Anyway — these lives remind me that the One who created them also created me. Thanks, Phil — Blessings — Jean

    • philnevahefner March 3, 2013 at 4:15 am #

      I’ll look forward to seeing your montage, Jean. I would include a couple of my teachers. Let me know if you find a non-military word. I think of “paradigm.” Bonhoeffer called Jesus a paradigm for us.

  2. thehef67 April 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Too short. Write more on this. But us non-academics want to understand this concept of catcher too. So more day to day examples. I would add that I think that is probably why I enjoy the multi cultural service so much. I am always catching something and it is usually so deep and personal that it is more a feeling than something to describe verbally.

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