Tuesday, November 25, 2014

religion as a competitive sport

Yesterday, my older son was pleased to be named track coach at the local high school. As I understand it, that makes him some sort of honcho over events like running, hurdles, javelin, shot put, discus etc. Besides being flattered for him, I also wonder to what extent the position is one of those jobs where people get snookered -- nice title camouflaging bureaucratic drudgery.

It also made me bite off and munch the idea of religion as a competitive sport.

I don't mean this in some sort of snarky, critical sense, though heaven knows there's plenty of my-pecker's-longer-than-yours, one-true-faith posturing. What I mean is the inability or unwillingness to see my spiritual persuasion as other than goal-oriented ... get to heaven, get enlightened, become a martyr, etc. Sometimes the approach is crass; sometimes it's subtle and corrupt as a nobleman.

Competing with others is fairly easy to see and address. Competing with myself -- shooting for some brass-ring improvement and the like -- is more confounding. It rests on a lack of faith that whatever spiritual persuasion I have espoused really has any meat on the bone -- that I must keep propping it up and praising it and meeting its demands in order for it to have a real worth.

And perhaps that's the bottom line of religion as a competitive sport: Worth. As long as my persuasion needs to be somehow worthy, to that extent I will be mired in a world in which religion will deserve every snarky criticism it receives.

Competitive sport may be a place to start -- the books, the words, the adoration, the practices -- but it hardly seems capable of crossing any experiential finish line.


  1. I'm past my prime. The only award left to win is death.

  2. Idaios Daktylos Herakles of OlympiaNovember 25, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    First off congrats to your son. Let him take in the appointment to that position in a way that both he and the school probably mean: He has shown great competence in most if not all aspect of the sport and has demonstrated good leadership skills.

    But yes, it is wise to let him know that such positions usually come with detailed administrative tasks -- often tedious and seemingly spirit sucking. But if he can master the art of the efficient and effective bureaucrat (usually done by diligence and carefully supervised delegation and hanging out with the "right people") he will be able to "go far."

    Onto the post. I liked your flippy ending Genkaku but I read it as opposite of grounded experience. In the common notion of non-religious, non-spiritual world, goals are actually or close to being concrete and tangible: the plaque, the trophy, the pay raise, the title, the corner office, the stock options, the perks, the Golden Parachute, etc.

    Spiritual / religious goals may be worthy but the before even embarking on a path to achieve such "goals" there need be a great deal of examination. Then periodic, non-obsessive reexamination is required as well. It's tricky as the need for faith, dedication, clarity of purpose, and critical examination conflict or appear to conflict at times.

    As for religion as competitive sport, there are elements that probably benefit from competition and elements that are on a different plane altogether.

    Let's take a mischievous approach and have some fun. Let's have the Annual Buddhist Paramita Events: Who can demonstrate the most generosity? Who is the most moral (least corrupt?). We await to learn who are the most patient. Who is the most energetic? And the best meditator is ..... Finally we can identify the best and wisest of the year. While it's totally absurd, I rather see people put time and effort into working on their character, their "virtue," their mindfulness and their concentration, rather than putting time into the Perfection of Baseball Skills, or Basketball Skills or Football Skills. LOL!

    However, to my honest, my best guess says working on perfecting just about anything will take you into the world of the "good," the "religious" and the "spiritual. Competition is optional but can be a welcomes addition.

    "It's How You Take It! Hahaha!"