baseball, enlightenment, humor, philosophy, politics, quote, riff

Riff on a Yogi Berra Quote

Some of the many humorous quotes (mis)attributed to Yogi Berra may be trenchant expressions of genuine wisdom, not just funny malapropisms.  Consider Yogi Berra’s Law.
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In Yogi Berra’s Washington Post obituary, the subtitle “American philosopher” is well-chosen.  While some of the quotes attributed (or misattributed) to Yogi Berra may just be funny malapropisms, some strike me as quirky ways to say something important, akin to Zen koans.  One of his gems is widely applicable and especially relevant to a world on the brink of ecological and/or political collapse.  It deserves a special name.  It is also so widely quoted that 2 versions are common, as indicated below:

Yogi Berra’s Law
The game ain’t over til it’s over.
It ain’t over til it’s over.

Yes, the original context was baseball.  With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning, the home team may be trailing.  Yogi rightly admonishes both the home team (to resist despair) and the visitors (to resist complacency).  A lot can still happen with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning.  I prefer the shorter version of the law because it is more explicit about the law’s generality.  “It” could be almost anyhthing.

My current context for heeding Yogi Berra’s Law is the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS.  At best, this event marks the start of 4 long and nasty years in the US.  At worst, this event might combine with trends elsewhere (in China, Europe, and Russia) to start a new Dark Age.  To consider the worst case is prudent, not alarmist.

Mindless repetition of platitudes like

  • It can’t happen here.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • It is always darkest just before the dawn.

is no substitute for the eternal vigilance that Jefferson said is the price of liberty.  (There are other prices.)  I resist the complacency of those platitudes; I also resist despair and continue (in my own small way) to be a citizen rather than just a complainer.

In a late inning in the biggest game of my lifetime, the Enlightenment is trailing.  That sucks.  But 2+3 is still 5 and Yogi Berra’s Law is still true.