12 May The Cross Is In the Ballpark
I’ve been listening to a certain Paul Simon song a lot lately. The Obvious Child (off the Rhythm of the Saints album) showcases a mid-life crisis of sorts — a series of confessions by a pensive man suddenly of the realization that life’s become almost too comfortable and predictable — an existence of ease that’s left him wondering whether any real challenges or hardships had or ever will surface over the years. To put a positive spin on it, the man is soul searching. Is there any more to this “smooth ride” I’ve been on?
I applaud him for recognizing that his so-called “burdens” — the “baggage” he’s accumulated over the years — the “cross” he carries — is hardly biblical in nature. He understands he ain’t got nothing on real hardship. Nepal, Syria, Ebola-stricken Africa, Haiti — now that’s real suffering. But, for him and many of us, “the cross is in the ballpark.” Isn’t it obvious?
For some, sadly, it isn’t obvious and it never will be. But, for the overwhelming majority, the question of obviousness has never been the issue. It’s been obvious for some time that we’re irreversibly damaging the environment, yet we continue to pollute. It’s obvious racism still runs rampant, yet we allow our government to gut the Voting Rights Act. It’s obvious special interests are destroying our democracy, that women deserve equal pay, that smoking kills, that people go to sleep hungry, that we should be kinder to strangers and call our mothers. In light of the obvious, too often we echo Simon’s tautology with our choice of inaction: “a lie is just a lie.” “The sky is just the sky.” That’s just the way it is.
I’m not suggesting the problems of today aren’t debilitatingly scary and overwhelming. And, as long as they’re not on our doorstep, it’s easy to put them off for another day. But, at what point does procrastination become neglect — does neglect become indifference — does indifference become outright apathy? Sadly, I feel confident that the man in Simon’s song will take no action until a challenge comes directly to him. He’ll ignore the fight against climate change until water comes pouring over his seawall. He’ll dismiss the battle against income inequality and corporate greed unless he’s poor and desolate. He’ll continue to purchase eight cylinder sports cars until gas hits $6 dollars a gallon. His cross will remain in the ballpark because he chooses to keep it there. “Had a lot of fun — had a lot of money” will be his epitaph. And, his children will inherit the behavior, convinced their crosses are real and true – the only ones worthy of action (listen to the Sonny portion of the song for more insight on this point).
As a believer in free will and the power of the individual, I encourage those of you who, like this man, say “why?” to take it one step further. Don’t just hear the call to action. Act. When you witness injustice, help make it just. If your day feels too easy, make it more challenging. If you’re aware of suffering, help alleviate it. If life feels empty, make it fuller. Because a lie isn’t just a lie — it has consequences. The sky isn’t just the sky — it’s fragile and can be destroyed. The crosses of far too many are heavy and painful, and we all have a responsibility to carry them. Why deny the obvious child?
Listen to the song. It’s a good one. What comes next is up to you.