Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sports and our culture

Read this introduction to White Fang by Jack London.

“A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozenhearted Northland Wild.

“But there was life, abroad in the land and defiant. ...

“On wide snowshoes, toiled a man. At the rear of the sled toiled a second man. On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again. It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offense to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man—man, who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement.”

Our society takes the wrong approach to sports. We see sports as competition against other people; this is not as it should be. Sports are a competition not against other people but a competition against Nature, against “the Wild”. And don’t for a second believe we have overcome the Wild’s desire to end our movement with technology. Look at a nursing home; we are still “ever in revolt” against a Nature that will “crush into submission man”.

Sports are not about winning. They’re a competition not against other men, but against Nature. Sports are about movement, and not letting old-age or apathy destroy it.