Monday, July 26, 2010

An Introduction to Cricket, Shakespeare and the Bible. (A Series in Fourteen Parts)

This originated as the first post of a quite ambitious series, but then got so involved that it evolved into the introduction, and the now-even-more-ambitious series starts next time. With impeccable timing, I’m starting a series on my love of cricket just as my team has been historically humbled by Pakistan. In England, at that, possibly to ensure I get the maximum amount of grief from my English acquaintances. And a few Indian folk, never ones to miss an opportunity. But, as usual, I digress.

Following some email conversations several months ago, I was idly wondering how I could prove to someone (the ACB? torturers? my logically-trained sister?) that what I feel for cricket is not merely ‘like,’ or ‘fanatical like,’ or even ‘potentially pathological obsession,’ but is in fact love. My four years of undergraduate Arts training sprang to the fore, or, more realistically, ambled by on the way to Tav and pointed out that I needed to do some research and define my terms. Here follows an account of my extensive research on the important topic of like vs love, a prequel to testing the hypothesis that I do actually love cricket. The team are doing their level best to test the attachment out there in the real world, so I thought I’d work through the issue in theory.

According to Wordcount, love is the 384th most used word, just after economic (rather sad, really) and before means. (The word after this is upon, so according to Wordcount ‘love means upon’ – make of that what you will.) Like is 67th, which didn’t help one of my starting premises that we use love more than like. Moving on to google, a simple search for love turns up 1.81m results (I have no comments on their quality or suitability for viewing by children – or adults, for that matter) while like gets 3.27m. That premise is therefore officially dead.

What persists is a further premise that we use the word love when we could say like, or (even better) enjoy, appreciate, take pleasure in, am happy upon/with/about/in/beside etc etc. Love is sometimes used for emphasis, but google agrees with me that love is employed a little too often, returning roughly 2.4m results for ‘love overused,’ most of which seem to involve a phrase along the lines of ‘the word love is overused these days / today / nowadays.’* To give this some context, a search for ‘like love’ returns 364m results – like can mean a lot of things, not to mention its use on Facebook, google, You Tube et al to indicate approval. ‘Like vs love’ returns 204m, most of which seem to be discussions on how to tell if you simply like someone or do in fact love them.

The difference between the two is much debated - to quote the Shakespearean classic, 10 Things I Hate About You:
"See, there’s a difference between like and love. Because I like my Skechers, but I love my  Prada backpack."
"But I love my Skechers."
"That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack."

I have some Skechers which I am attached to, but if pressed, would happily admit I don’t love. Having never owned a Prada backpack, I can’t comment on that particular criteria, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t love it either. I might say I loved it in casual conversation, but it wouldn’t show up in any serious list of things I love. For all I’m trying to find out if cricket would be there, most of the 'things' on that list would be people.

So, extensive research covered, I need a definition of love to test my hypothesis on. When in doubt, go back to first principles: the OED, Shakespeare, and the Bible. The OED has several definitions of love, one of which is “a great interest and pleasure in something,” but where’s the fun in that? That’s barely even one post to prove my point: “I have great interest in and take pleasure from cricket, therefore I love it.” Heck, it’s scarcely a paragraph. I’m going for something more rounded.

While Shakespeare deals with the subject at length in several genres, he doesn’t give us a reliable definition of what love is.** Complexity does not lend itself to consistency. He comes closest in Sonnet 116 which contains negative definitions: “Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds” and “Love's not Time's fool” - but I’m all about positivity. Not so much about academic rigour or consistency, as you may have gathered.*** The sonnet does say that love “is an ever-fixĂ©d mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark”, and I’ll come back to that at some point in the series.

This is a pretty good start, but I’d like more to work with; if I’m going get fourteen posts out of this subject, it's clear I need to go to the Bible. Yes, fourteen, although I reserve the right, ala The Wheel of Time, to extend the series if necessary. Or reduce it, for any reason deemed acceptable by The Management. If it’s any comfort, future posts might be shorter than this one and at my current rate it will take me more than a year to finish the series. That’s a long time in cricket.

The Bible, conveniently, has a lot to say about love. God is love, for starters, but proving that God = love = cricket is a little beyond even me. (Mind you, that would make going to the cricket on a Sunday a sacramental event, and I could take time off to go to Tests for religious reasons… hmm.) Amongst it all is a whole chapter on what love IS, and it’s quite definite. So, risking my immortal soul, excommunication, or at the very least some narky comments and suggestions that I attend theology classes, I am going to work my way through 1 Corinthians 13 and test my love of cricket against it, hopefully proving in the process that I love cricket in the, err, Biblical sense. (Ahem.) Please bear in mind that this may be one of those wholesome family stories where I learn some important lessons along the way and turn out to be completely wrong, since, all evidence to the contrary, I really don't know what I'll end up concluding.

* Is this true? A question for another day, or another blog, but for all I know, the Ancient Greeks wandered around all, y’know, “I totally love what you’ve done with your hair!” and “Are those Athenian leather? Oh. My. Gods. I love them!” Or: “Oh I love, love, love Sophocles: have you seen his latest? So much gore - totally classic!” The Greeks may have sounded like the great Jane Austen work Clueless – you heard it here first.

** Thousands of academics would disagree, but then they would turn around and disagree with each other about what he meant, thereby proving my point. If he’d defined it, they wouldn’t be arguing. Well, some of them would argue on principle, but not thousands of them.

*** I’m stealing borrowing Rohan’s idea of acknowledging my shortcomings at the beginning of the series and thereby giving myself an out for the rest of it. I haven’t framed it as a disclaimer, per se, but you get the gist.