Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Super Bowl Ethic

"Thorns and Flowers"
- in my meditation garden -

Today millions of Americans as well as people from all over the world will sit in front of a TV set and watch the “Super Bowl.” One part of me really enjoys “Super Bowl Sunday” – a time for people to gather with friends, share a meal and have some fun; but there is another part of me that is pretty uncomfortable with the rampant “Super Bowl Fever” that seems to sweep across the country so infectiously on a day like today.

There are some underlying messages that permeate today’s “big game” mentality. For one thing, violence is condoned and even celebrated – professional football today is a very brutal sport. And there is another not so subtle message that goes along with this national Super Bowl phenomenon: Winning is the only good - if you lose, even if you come in second place, you are not as respected or valuable as the those who come in first.

It seems to me that many people throughout this culture have adopted a Super Bowl Ethic as a standard by which they live their everyday lives:  Beat the other guy down no matter what it takes, stronger is better, and only winners count.

The problem with this mentality is that on a path to deeper peace and greater wisdom the opposite is often true. On a spiritual journey you often find that you win more when you also let others win, and you sometimes learn more when you lose.

Priest and author, Richard Rohr, offers this astute observation:

The most counter intuitive message in most of the world’s religions,
including and most especially in Christianity is this:
We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.
This might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens.

I think this is a great sentiment to hold onto as people everywhere are swept away by “Super Bowl Fever” on this day. I think it’s quite true that the path to wisdom often involves losing in life, getting it wrong, making mistakes, falling and failing.

When we fail and and when we fall we can become vulnerable enough to look beyond our own self-centered bloated ego and we reach out to others for help and guidance along the way. People who have it all, people who win all the time don’t need anything or anyone else and so they walk alone, and on a spiritual path you never walk alone. We make a spiritual journey by holding onto one another’s hands, walking the path with all our fellow weak, weary and wounded travelers along the way.

A Super Bowl Ethic makes the claim that we find happiness in life when we crush our opponents or step on others, especially the “others” that are different from us.  I think this is also a case where the opposite is true. Both Jesus and the Buddha teach that true peace and deeper wisdom is always found by respecting the dignity of other human beings - we find our greatest joy when everyone has a place of honor at the table of life and we find our greatest happiness when we make others happy.

The Dalai Lama said:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

This advice is about as far away from a Super Bowl Ethic as you can get.

People who live their lives as if they are playing in the Super Bowl usually find that they are walking a path that leads to a dead end- they may be successful, but they are often very lonely.

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