[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature on topics beyond the world of jobs and careers.]
Reality Hits Home
Today I’m going to my last baseball game of this season. The Cubs will host the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. It’s been a great year for the Braves, who are one of the best teams in either league. The Cubs, however, are a different story. They’re rebuilding, which means they’ve traded off experienced players in the hope of developing through youth. We’ll see about that strategy.
I love baseball. It’s the spring and summer game. Baseball is the sport that has spawned the greatest mythologies and most memorable statistics. However, as the season comes to an end, we realize that cold and darkness are coming. The World Series is called the Fall Classic, but many of its games are often played on 40 degree days with rain and sleet, another sign of winter’s arrival.
The end of a season also brings reflection on the season that has been. After the Cubs traded several experienced players, the team’s fans started to focus on those players that should be future stars. Two of them, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, had miserable years, both after signing long term contracts. Castro has had two good years previous to this one. He even led the league in most hits. Rizzo had a great second half last year, showing both power and the ability to hit for average. This year both players underperformed. Similarly, the projected staff ace Jeff Samardzija was erratic. Some starts were very good, but in others he seemed to be throwing batting practice.
These are reasons for concern, maybe even despair. The great thing about baseball is that spring training starts in the dead of winter. While it’s cold and dark during February in Chicago, the Cubs will head to Arizona to start the 2014 season, a new slate. However this year ended, we fans will look for signs of a better future. And that’s the magic of baseball. Every season begins with hope.
[On Sundays, this blogs explores a diverse topics beyond the world in “Sabbath,” a title inspired by the similarly titled poems of Wendell Berry.]
Here Comes the Sun
Yesterday was a great day. For the first time in several months, I put aside my winter coat for a much lighter jacket. Yesterday and today, the sun has been out and so are people, who have clogged sidewalks in my neighborhood. Spring is here – finally!
Where last winter was unusually mild, this winter was average in its temperatures, cold but not too cold. This year’s winter, like an unwanted guest, would not go away. We had no warm, sunny March days. Tomorrow, April 1, which is opening day here in Chicago for our American League team, will go back to being cold, but that is just the way April tends to be: a few good days, a few bad days, and a few really cold, gray, rainy days that almost make one wish for the dry, sunny cold of February. The real good news is that Spring is here and the worst is over. It will be five or six weeks before we get to the next stage of the season: complaining about how hot it is.
Today is also Easter, a day of hope and change. I’m not religious, but I do enjoy seeing people going to and from church. This holiday invites bright colors and an equally light spirit. For those of us who follow a more secular bent, it’s the start of the summer game, a new baseball season. The teams I root for most, the Indians and the Cubs probably are not going to be contenders. However, the joy of spring brings hope for a miracle. Fans, like church goers, are people of faith, especially those who root for the Cubs, a team that hasn’t won a World Series in more than 100 years.
A few blocks from my office, two new businesses are opening, which follows a national trend for an improved economy. 2008 taught us that anything can happen in a large, complicated economy, but recent news has been more upbeat. Hopefully summer will bring more jobs, higher home prices, and businesses that are making money. I’m a little worried that we are seeing a new real estate bubble, but that worry is tempered by warm weather and bright sun. Tomorrow’s problems will come tomorrow. Today is a good time to smile.
Enjoy this fine day and those that will follow. I’ll close with a few words from Wendell Berry’s 1982 Sabbath poem III:
The flock, barn-weary, comes to it again,
New to the lambs, a place their mothers know,
Welcoming, bright, and savory in its green,
So fully does the time recover it.
Nibbles of pleasure go all over it.
[On Sundays, this blog ponders life and work in “Sabbath.”]
For Christians, Easter signifies the highest level of faith and hope. The holiday is marked by Spring flowers and metaphors of life renewed. For all of us, regardless of our beliefs and philosophies, hope is the foundation of personal and professional success. We will all face challenges and obstacles. Hope gives us the strength to move forward even when we want to quit or give in to despair.
The last few years have brought despair to many Americans. Unemployment, wage cuts, falling home prices, and unending wars, the list of problems seems almost endless. Some people quit when they hit the wall. They stop looking for work or, worse still, take some action (drinking, gambling) that makes their problems worse. When asked what is wrong, they blame outside forces for their problem. They speak in a language in which they have no power over their fate, the kind of thinking that Martin Seligman calls “learned helplessness.” For at least five years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, some of my clients blamed this event for their problems finding work. Now, as the job market is showing positive growth, some people still say it is “impossible” to find a job in this economy. This language of hopeless never leads to success.
The good news is that most people don’t fall into this trap. They remain optimistic even when things don’t go their way. Their attitude enables them to keep looking for a new job knowing that there are four job seekers for every open position. I’m often amazed when clients tell me stories about how they were treated by a boss or how hard they worked only to get laid off. Rather than give in to bitterness, they look forward and say tomorrow will be a better day.
Can we learn hope? Is hope as much a skill as an attitude? I believe that people can change their attitudes and outlook if they put things in the proper context. Viktor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, survived Nazi death camps. He went on to develop a branch of psychology, logotherapy, based on this principle: We cannot control our fate; however, we can choose our attitudes in understanding our situation and the actions we take in moving forward. Frankl believed that we bring meaning to our lives. Successful people find a way to keep hope even in the darkest times. Henry Ford had a similar belief: “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Easter could be called the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. It is a great day to take some time and reflect on the good things we have, the resources that let us keep faith in the future. Every day, the media bombards us with negative stories. If we just went by the “news” we get from TV, radio, newspapers, and the Internet, it would seem that the world is a miserable place. The good news is that most people look beyond the gloom. We look forward to better days even when things seem impossible. As the Spring bears new life, hope renews us.
1. In today's Daily Kos, Denise Oliver Perez explores the pagan roots of Easter.
2. Wendell Berry wrote these words – a great Easter message – in his third Sabbath poem of 1983:
May our kind live to breathe
Air worthy of the breath
Of all singers that sign
In joy of their making,
Light of the risen year,
Songs worthy of the ear
Of breathers worth their air,
Of makers worth their hire.