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Sports As A Social Elixir
Recently I revisited an earlier alter ego—Jimmy Olson of Daily Planet fame—as I was introduced to a pair of elegant and eloquent thinkers in the sports space we occupy here at SportsEdTV.
Jimmy, trained to pen sentences for sixth-grade level readers of daily newspapers by hard thinkin' and drinkin' ink-stained city editors. His contemporary superheroes played on street fields—stickball, H-O-R-S-E, and kick-the-can.
Jimmy’s reportorial style mirrored his physique: short, stubby, and curt.
So, in the presence of elegant and eloquent thinkers like David Meggysey and Dr. Jean Houston, Jimmy has urged me to demur to their station and below highlight some of their lofty thoughts and knowledge about the well-being of our world through sports in hopes of directing you to their linked full writings on the subject.
Dr. Houston’s Sports and Social Transformation in the International Journal of Healing and Caring is teeming with theory supporting sports as a social curative.
Sports Positive Premise
“What role does sport have to play in today's societal breakdown? Yes, we are in a time of enormous breakdown and breakthrough. It's the changing of the guard on every level, in which every given is quite literally up for grabs.
It’s the momentum behind the drama of the world, the breakdown and breakthrough of every old way of being, knowing, relating, governing, and believing, and it’s shaking the foundations of literally all and everything. But it also allows for another order of reality to come into time.
Now, this is not by any means the first time that we've had this kind of breakdown. But what is interesting is that you find times of such colossal breakdown — times of pandemic, plague, utter disorganization, the decay and collapse of traditional institutions-- people lost everywhere — often precede the times of enormous breakthrough.
For example, the Italian Renaissance was preceded in the mid-14th century by a plague that destroyed half of the population of Europe and collapsed virtually every old way of knowing. And yet something was engendered in that time of collapse. It was as if the universe said, “Enough already. Now it’s time for profoundly new ways of being and knowing to enter into time,” and you have the Renaissance, and it’s bringing a time of renewal and discovery. The critical potency of it was a radical change in perspective that led to the emergence of startling new forms in art, music, science, architecture, creativity and an enormous unfolding and flowering of the human spirit.
I believe that’s where we are now. But what is it that’s about to come through for us – is it art… science? What is it that can serve as the coherent metaphor and method that can bring new societies into being? And when I say, “Is it religion?” No, I don’t think so.
And when I say, “Is it science?” Believe it or not, I don’t think so. I think it is sport. Why sport? Because sport is a key activity that coheres all people, all cultures, that brings everything together. So in this time of whole system transition, a condition of interaction that affects every aspect of life, it may well be sport that provides the qualities and energies that bring us to the reconsideration of the Enhancement of life on Earth and a world that works.”
“Sport is a universal human activity and we are social animals as we congregate among ourselves, as families, tribes, and various social groupings up to nation-states, cultures, and civilizations. As an optimist, I expect we could posit a 'world civilization' in the future – A Brave New World, as we go forth into the future given the present world dynamic.
From the bottom:
The most basic core activities people do are: sex, procreating, eating, sharing, sleeping, moving, protecting, hunting, gathering, defending, fighting, killing others, and dying.
At the next level:
As core social human animals the activities that all humans do; thinking, praying, meditating, imagining, creating, visualizing, speaking, singing, dancing, writing, making art, music, communicating, planning, organizing, building, war, and yes, competing.
And there are the basic movement forms all humans do; touching, walking, running, lifting, throwing, shoving, pushing, grabbing, wrestling, hitting, holding, swimming, playing, and fighting. These basic movements are articulated in various sport forms and athletic experiences around the world.
Playing is said to be an even deeper core in life and human activity, higher animals play. Playing is seen to be autotelic, the pursuit of it is just doing the activity itself, not for any other purpose. And playing is also seen as a kind of training for combat, hunting there is a functional dimension. Play, sport, the athletic experience is a human universal –more evolved animals and humans play! Out of play sport forms emerge. Play is creative development, as is sport, an evolving learning, creative process.
Sport is about relationships and is typically something that humans do. Relationship is the seminal idea that binds aspects (dimensions) of reality. Our language is typically about the relationship between discreet entities. Yet, in truth, there are no discreet entities, no "stuff" as such, and our languages make it so.
Sport is about relationship, a dimension, and activity within the cosmic big game, that we relate to, we are players in the proverbial Game of Existence and Life. Why sport is such an important human universal activity that it reflects the big game, yes, the big game is totally about total energy patterns of relationships and information in the universe – it is the Universe. Reality as such, are patterns of relationship. Sport is about organized creative play reflecting patterns of creative relationships that humans do, and we believe life does, and more ‘evolved’ animals do as well.”
So there's that and here are what Jimmy would call Houston and Meggysey jewels of prose as they continue promoting sports as a healer, connector, and elixir:
Houston: “The one thing so necessary around the world today in this time of Renaissance is a re-patterning of human nature. What sport allows us to do, first of all, is to get back into embodiment. So many of us lost our bodies by sitting in front of television sets or becoming addicted to social media. Embodiment is when we realize that we are in the sacred fulcrum of our body/mind. The fine-tuning that occurs in sport allows one to become deeply intimate with the structures and the ways that the body moves, works, thinks and has its being.”
Meggyesy: “Charles Darwin understood that the fate of a particular species is based on the dynamic of competition and cooperation in the relationship, an evolving process, not the warped limited view of a lone individual's survival of the fittest view. So, we can ask ourselves how can excellence be achieved and fostered, driven by competition/cooperation in humanity.
Competition in sport is one thing, not two things, it is a total event. We are so conditioned to separate things and the language of, ‘who won, who lost’, makes the dialectic that is formed in our minds.
Mike Murphy, Founder of Esalen Institute coined the phrase “Sport is our Western Yoga”. What Mike meant was sport, the athletic experience is an activity that can trigger and make present our ‘transcendent imperative’ experience. For myself, as a former professional athlete, sport is a powerful vector and activity into to our larger, more comprehensive, transcendent human sensibility.”
Jean Houston Ph.D. is an internationally respected scholar, spiritual teacher, researcher of human capacities, and visionary thinker. The author of 26 books, she has worked with such diverse groups as the UN and UNICEF, and with people ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to the Dalai Lama. She is also the founder of the Renaissance of Spirit, a school of human development, a program of cross-cultural, mythic, and spiritual studies, dedicated to teaching history, philosophy, the New Physics, psychology, anthropology, and the many dimensions of human potential. www.jeanhouston.com.
David Meggyesy is a former seven-year NFL player, and author of Out of Their League, his best-selling football biography. David co-founded the Esalen Sports Center and is a founding member of the Evolutionary Sports Collective. For 25 years David was the Western Director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the NFL players’ labor union. David taught “Sports, Consciousness and Social Change” at Stanford University.
Jimmy Olson is a cub reporter working for the Daily Planet in Metropolis alongside Clark Kent and Lois Lane underneath chief-editor Perry White. He is most well known for being a close personal friend to Superman and has a signal watch to call him for help at any time. Jimmy is the figment of the imaginations of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster of DC Comics.