Boundaries and Divine Law

A Baseball Metaphor

For those who don’t know much about baseball, here are three things that might help you understand the metaphor I’m about to relate. First, it’s “a game of inches”, because the difference between success and failure, safe and out, home-run and foul ball is literally inches apart. Second, there is no time constraint in baseball, unlike some other major team sports. In theory, a baseball game could go on forever, like a tennis match with no tiebreaker. Third, anything is possible in baseball. The outcome of a game could change drastically in the blink of an eye, literally.

Two weeks ago, I was following a MLB game, one of the most important games of the season for my favorite team. After the 1st inning (there are 9 innings in a regular game), the score was 1:0 in favor of my team. Given the three factors mentioned above, I was understandably feeling quite uneasy about the outcome. Then half way through the game, I had an epiphany of sort. It dawned on me that the minuscule, almost negligible, difference in the score, may be significant from the perspective of Eternity, i.e., there may be an invisible boundary between 1 and 0 that cannot be crossed, because it is fixed in Eternity. As it turned out, the score remained 1:0 till the end.

Life, like baseball, may be a game of inches, yet the boundary of difference may be “a great gulf fixed”. There is a Chinese saying that conveys the same meaning, 差之毫厘,失之千里 (A miss of millimeters, a breach of a thousand miles).

Boundaries

Plutarch makes a sharp observation on boundaries in “Parallel Lives“.

“It is very clear that it was this king [Numa] who first prescribed bounds to the territory of Rome; for Romulus would have openly betrayed how much he had encroached on his neighbors’ lands, had he ever set limits to his own; for boundaries are, indeed, a defense to those who choose to observe them, but are only a testimony against the dishonesty of those who break through them.”

The Latin root for the word transgression literally means to go across, that is to go over the landmark or boundary set by Law. There is a famous example of such transgression recorded in the Life of Caesar.

When Caesar came to the river Rubicon, the boundary which it was illegal for him to cross with his army against Rome, he checked his course, and ordered a halt, while he revolved with himself, and often changed his opinion one way and the other, without speaking a word…. At last, in a sort of passion, casting aside calculation, and abandoning himself to what might come. With the words “The die is cast,” he took the river.

Moral and spiritual laws have no visible boundaries. So perhaps we don’t halt and reflect, as Caesar did, when we are on the verge of crossing them. Transgressions might often be overlooked by others and ourselves, if we are accustomed to ignore the voice of conscience. We may even deceive ourselves and others, and protest vehemently that there are no such laws. And yet from the point of view of Eternity, they are fixed and immutable.

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