2 min read

Individualism and collectivism, Unwritten rules in writing and baseball

Originally published January 25, 2021

Hi all!

  1. Matthew Salesses: craft is expectation. What are the expectations of a novel? Who is expecting what? (from his new--fantastic--book Craft in the Real World)
  2. The dynamic puzzle of art: It’s subjective, it can become objective, and then back again
  3. My magic running song is Mr Blue Sky by ELO (coincidentally, The Half Marathoner wrote a post mentioning this exact phenomenon: “You Just Need One Good Song”)
  4. Fran Lebowitz in Pretend It’s a City: It’s not art if you can eat it
  5. Fernando Tatis Jr broke one of baseball’s unwritten rules back in August
  6. RIP Henry Aaron. Lex Pryor for The Ringer writes: “Henry Aaron’s greatest skill was his ability to make the impossible look routine.” (This gets back to what I wrote about expression and compression last week in The Ponder #2)
  7. What is the smallest unit of society? What are the dangers of individualism?
  8. Priya Parker on etiquette in The Art of Gathering

How does this connect?

6 & 7: Henry Aaron and Individualism/collectivism

Claire Smith for The Undefeated: “He became his generation’s most direct descendent of Jackie Robinson not because he wanted to, but because he knew he had to as he ran directly at the racists who wanted to prevent his success. … His presence in the major leagues created a safe place for Black players from Dusty Baker to Joe Morgan to Ken Griffey Sr. It was almost like the baseball version of the Underground Railroad. When you get to Atlanta, look up Aaron and he’ll take care of you.”

“The countries that defeated the coronavirus have done so collectively,” writes German Lopez for Vox.

Individualism seems to be a common thread from one bad thing to another. Racism and sexism make complete sense if a person’s worldview only accounts for their own desires. Committing to be in community and/or family forces collaboration -- in a good way.

1 & 5 & 8: Matthew Salesses, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Priya Parker

Fernando Tatís Jr. is a shortstop for the San Diego Padres, and he hits the ball hard. That's his job. In mid-August he hit a grand slam against the Rangers when his team had a 10-3 lead in the eighth inning.

After the game, both the opposing manager and Tatis’s manager say that he shouldn’t have hit that homer. “That’s not how the game is played.” “[Tatis] is young, he’ll learn.” Tatis apologizes. Says, “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.” Later in the week, Tatis’s walkup song is "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake.

In Salesses’s book, he talks about how fiction in America operates based on a set of rules laid down in the 30s when the Iowa Writers Workshop started. Those expectations served the white men who were writing and reading in that workshop. Now, those same rules are entrenched and cause people who don’t know the rules well to be seen as outsiders.

Etiquette is another way to think about these rules, in baseball or writing, or elsewhere. Parker writers about the positive side of etiquette: “Sharing this common code allows people to coordinate more easily, to avoid embarrassing one another, and to minimize the social risk of situations.” But the negative falls heavily on people: “The etiquette approach to life is also imperious. It is the opposite of humble. It shows minimal interest in how different cultures or regions do things.”