“Don’t look back … something might be gaining on you!”
Satchell Paige was one of the greatest pitchers in professional baseball. Like another great, Yogi Berra, he had a way of saying things that seemed not quite understandable, but right. Berra once said, “it ain’t over until it’s over.” Both his and “Satch’s” quotes are in the same ballpark.
Although remembering 2020 may seem to contradict Paige’s famous advice to not look back, it really does not. After all, unless you have a crystal ball (if you believe in such), it is impossible to see into the future. All we can see is the present, which inevitably is a result of how we see (or remember) our past.
Here we are on the brink of a new year. Lord knows, right up to this day, it has been a difficult one. But, on a personal level, I feel pretty good about it. For one thing, I’m still here. For another, if I take my doctor’s advice and stop thinking too much, I might be here for years to come.
Many of the things I think about amount to nothing more than looking back. It’s not just because Paige advised against it, it’s in the Bible. Remember the story about the husband and wife who left an awful place called Sodom? An angel of God told them not to look back after leaving. The woman couldn’t resist one last look but, as soon as she turned, she became a block of salt. I think I got that halfway right.
They say “time … waits for no man.” I guess that includes women, too. Anyway, with all the troubles of the world, I think we have to learn to be more grateful for the things we have. We have to keep believing that, although last year was not fun, the coming year will be a lot better. The only option is to surrender to the tides of time, and get swept away by either self-pity or circumstances we believe to be out of our control.
The great poet, Robert Frost, once said: “your circumstances need not determine your destiny.” What I suppose he meant is that, even though present circumstances may seem to be set against you, if you keep going, if you persevere, if you work to improve your own future, you probably will.
I was on Mitch Henck’s WOOF-BOOM talk show last week. (Henck is a wonderful host with a great sense of humor and plenty of smarts). I forget his exact on-air question to me, but it was something like whether or not I felt any good had come out of the troubles of soon-to-be last year.
“Of course!” I answered. I went on to say that I thought people had gotten a lot smarter, especially about politics and government. I mentioned how I thought many more Americans were studying the U.S. Constitution, our electoral processes, the Electoral College system, our system of law and justice, issues of income inequality, geopolitics, and other matters of importance to them and to the nation as a whole.
I also mentioned how media typically focus on tragedies of one sort or another, but ignore the millions of large and small acts of kindness and compassion that happen every single day. You see, I hold on to the idea that people are essentially good. Usually, it is their political or other leaders who drag them off into the jungle and, through demagoguery, force, or some other means, appeal to their worst instincts.
I believe, too, that we have run out of time for such nonsense. We need to keep getting smarter, keep persevering, and keep showing kindness and compassion. These are the things that will make 2021 a much better year.
Keep believing! Keep looking forward. Keep getting smarter. Don’t look back. And do these things, not just for yourself, but for your children and your children’s children. After all, it is our task — our honor, really — to plant a tree whose shade we may never enjoy, but our children will.
By the way, Satchell Paige was a Black boy who learned to pitch in a juvenile detention center, traveled the world as a coveted pro, pitched fire into his 50s, and who is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not too shabby for a Black boy with little chance of amounting to anything. With that, Happy New Year, and . . .
Have a nice day.