In your recent letter to me, you told me most of your life story. Thank you for that. I read the whole thing. All 792 pages.
You mentioned that you were “screwed up” more than a few times. I won’t cite examples because your words to me are private, but I had to write you back.
I know your parents’ divorce has been hard. And I know you’ve been going through a lot, getting ready for college.
But I don’t think you’re screwed up. Actually, I think you’re swell. I would even add that you’re pretty cool. Also, your letter weighed 42 pounds.
If you ask me, being “screwed up” is just a matter of perception. Have you ever seen 1,000 identical store bought tomatoes? They’re completely uniform, they have no personality, and they taste like red clay dirt.
But homegrown tomatoes? They’re misshapen, multi-colored, lopsided, and totally screwed up. And everyone knows lopsided tomatoes taste like heaven.
People are the same way. We humans are complex, uniquely shaped biological beings, capable of incredible feelings, empathy, wit, kindness, and unbelievable body odor.
Here’s something. In only a few millionths of a second, a human brain can compute the trajectory and velocity of a speeding softball aimed at its face.
I bring this up because you mentioned that you played first base on your softball team in your letter. I think on page 349.
Well, it only takes an average ballplayer’s brain five gazillionths of a millisecond to send electrical impulses to his or her arm to make that important catch.
That’s not screwed up. That’s a scientific wonder.
Since we were talking about baseball, do you know what I think is interesting? This: who invented baseball? And I don’t mean which PERSON invented it. I’m talking in a big-picture kind of way.
Because here’s what I know. Baseball didn’t just appear out of nowhere. A flock of people formed this idea, reinvented it, honed it, nurtured it, and kept it going for well over a hundred years. Which means no singular person invented the game. A people group did.
The ironic thing is, American baseball became hugely popular during the American Civil War. Some think the war is what launched baseball’s fame.
Can you imagine a more screwed up time in history than the Civil War? I can’t. There were 618,222 people dying at the hands of their nextdoor neighbors. And soldiers were playing a kids’ game during their smoke breaks.
Soldiers from both sides got up games during lulls between fighting. American boys, who would die in combat found a semblance of fun during their off-time.
These were young men who marched upon bloodred battlefields, lived through hard times, survived in pup tents, crawled across valleys of dead bodies. And they were carrying hickory bats with them.
I once saw an antique photograph of several young soldiers at Fort Pulaski, in Savannah, Georgia. They were playing ball in the middle of the fort itself. During the throes of war. The year was 1862.
Why do I bring this up? After all, you didn’t write me to talk about sports. I tell you this because I do not believe baseball is a human invention. Neither are lopsided tomatoes. And neither are young women who write letters longer than doctoral dissertations.
So if these things aren’t human inventions, what are they? The answer is I don’t know. All I know is that they aren’t screwed up. Screwed up things don’t exist. The term is flawed.
Don’t get me wrong, the human race is far from perfect, and we have problems. But these flaws are not wasted. In fact, imperfections lead to some of nature’s more perfect moments.
Like a 12-year-old orphan boy in Bangladesh who finds a blind infant girl on the steps of a temple. The same boy who kept the girl, fed her, and raised her as his own daughter. Even though he had not hit puberty.
Or how about Erin, in Tennessee? She was horribly abused by her stepfather. Years later, when her stepfather was on his deathbed with COVID-19, she was his sole caregiver until the end. She even forgave him. You think that’s screwed up?
Look at Yosemite National Park. Those big rocks were formed by exploding volcanoes, destructive floods, devastating ice ages, and natural disasters scary enough to cause veteran Weather Channel reporters to ruin their slacks.
What about the Appalachian mountains? Are they screwed up? They formed when land masses catastrophically collided like two continent-sized eighteen-wheelers. Can you honestly look at those mountains and say they are an ugly mistake?
What about the sun? You think that’s screwy? That old star has been on fire for ages, but nobody is calling the fire department. That titanic inferno is responsible for life, trees, birds, rivers, plants, animals, Nick Saban, etc.
And that’s the point. It’s not up to you to say what’s right or wrong with the world. You’re not qualified. Oak trees don’t all grow in straight lines. Oceans are wild. Rivers are crooked. Clouds are lumpy. And some young women will never know how beautiful they are.
Society may be a mess. The earth may be unruly. But screwed up? No. I don’t believe anything under heaven is that far gone, Melanie. Not as long as we have baseball.
And your 42-pound letter.