Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Superbowl Spirituality

"Practice Compassion"
- 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 “Superbowl.” One part of me really enjoys “Super Bowl Sunday,” a festive occasion 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.

While the “Superbowl” may bring people together as they watch the big game, there is an underlying message here that also tears people apart.  As we watch the game we will witness some pretty brutal behavior as the opposing teams meet on a field of battle. Sure that “God” is on their side, they will strategize against one another and do all they can to crush the opponent in order to win the game - an underlying ethic that is diametrically opposed to the direction of any spiritual path.

In our own time many people throughout this culture seem to have adopted a Superbowl Mentality as a standard by which they live their everyday lives. More and more of us have gathered into camps of like-minded others to do battle with the other side. Sure that they are on the side that “God” likes best, they are absolutely certain they are right and the “opposition” is wrong and do all they can to destroy, obliterate and crush “different others” in order to be declared the “winners.”  Far from bringing people happiness, this sort of mentality is a sure-fire formula for suffering in living everyday.

The spiritual wisdom of most major world religions teach that we are all an interconnected web of relationship and true peace 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 go out of our way to lift up those who are cast away. And yes, “God” is on the side of everyone because “God” is “Love” and Love is the energy that connects us all.

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 Superbowl Mentality as you can get.

The underlying message in today’s “big game” is that “winning is everything,”  Players are expected to do all they can to win the game because there is no second place and if you don’t win you a loser; but the direction of a spiritual path points in an opposite direction. In fact, on a  spiritual journey we discover that we “win” when we also let others win, and many times we can only win by learning how to “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.

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

I plan on watching the “Superbowl” today and as I do so I will remember that I am only watching a "game" and that the way they play the game on TV is not the path I want my life to follow in my real, everyday life.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to connect the two (Superbowl and Spirituality) but I tend to compartmentalize each as entirely separate. I am sure I can find common ground, but what I really want to say is this.

    I love the Superbowl. I see great value in sportsmanship and teamwork, individual effort and skill, strategic game-planning and improvised adjustments. It is a pinnacle event in a (currently) pinnacle sport.

    However, sportsmanship has deteriorated greatly in our society. I do find this extremely concerning and believe you have captured some of the negative aspects of this in your post. Athletes today have become way overpaid for what they do, and way too influential. This influence can be put to good use, but more often it is wasted or used in negative ways.

    Having said all of that, it seems appropriate to point out that sports are cultural outlets for our inherently violent dispositions. We have many biological influences and needs which are not always appropriate in a 'civilized' society. Sporting competitions such as the Superbowl serve as culturally acceptable outlets for our naturally aggressive temperaments. At least that is how I see it.

    I do enjoy your posts. Thank for sharing your thoughts.