Friday, October 28, 2005

Where is the Center of the World?

David P. Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, wrote an op-ed recently in the LA Times complaining about the proliferation of sports on tv. “Now we have the World Series bearing down on us with all of its predictable sound and fury and heavy breathing signifying less than nothing,” he says. “Karl Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn’t religion, it’s spectator sports.” Letter to Barash, Oct. 23, 2005: My son said much the same thing when I would be watching Hockey Night in Canada, a 50-year Canadian ritual on Saturday night (we live on the border), “What’s the point?” But now that he in the football band at college, he emails, “ . . . the football gets kind of contagious.” In Canada hockey is a “religion.” And it is the only religion holding contrarian provinces together. I have a theory that sports form a substitute for religion in a region which has not yet found its true identity (like North America). Another way of looking at it is that sports form a yang religion (yang, meaning masculine or extroverted – EJ in Myers-Briggs terms/all buildings are square). That is, in Enlightenment cultures like our own – extraverted forms committed to material improvement – the inner life or Introverted (yin, meaning feminine or introverted – IP in Myers-Briggs terms/all buildings are round) culture (i.e. spiritual orientation and religious culture) dries up. Sports substitute. Notice that in every major city nowadays the only round buildings – the circle being the sign of the psyche and the traditional shape of religious buildings – are sports arenas. Hockey is in effect a masculine religion and can be understood in that way by reading Winston King’s most interesting book, Zen and the Way of the Sword, on how Japan’s ruling class developed out of the cult of the Samurai – virtually a yang religion. Generally speaking, one could do an archetypal study of all history to see how sports flourished in Extroverted systems – the Greeks and Romans in conquest mode were devoted to sports and – the Romans especially, oblivious to the will of the gods -, then the same matrix realms Introverted to sacred quests much later after their Extraverted affairs crashed and burned out – Hagia Sophia and Notre Dame – Our Mother – yin cultures were formed and circular buildings designed with feminine archetypes. Sports today is world religion and the so-called actual religions merely folkloric traditions (the prize of Christiandom, Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite in Paris is virtually gynecological in architectural motif – the interior virtually a womb). Today – the Big Noise of the Politicans aside - we live without gods and soccer is generally is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic path of the outside world around us but outside fo the United States. Two billion around the world watched the last World Cup of soccer, but very few in the United States. What is interesting is that this forms a donut-lie Mandela of the world today, the United States being the hole in the donut. And although Cal Kline, Michael Jackson, Coke, etc. market universally throughout the world, out own sports - baseball, football, basketball, etc. - no not. This is an interesting pattern. The return of baseball in the last two years is also interesting. TV ratings six years ago had more people (including myself) watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (primarily a series on “old school” Earth Mother religion) than the All Star Game. Now – last year – baseball has come back from the Land of the Dead. My email dream friends – some far away in Australia and California – were talking about the World Series between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. And now the Dalai Lama reveals that he is a big baseball fan. Deep inside in some secret and unknowable place, everyone in the Anglosphere is either a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan. Sports sublimate antagonisms – a substitute for war among the Cherokee when too many warriors were dying in the annual winter conflict – as anyone who saw the recent Winter Olympics in which Canada won the gold in both man and women’s hockey could easily determine. Contention had been growing in Canada for more than a year with the Joe Canada Molson ad and the hilarious “Talking to Americans,” show, the most popular show in Canadian history and a playful mockery of American pretensions. But I prefer the cosmic sub-text explanation. Like Black Elk pointing north to “the center of the world,” Boeing Co. recently made a decision to move its world headquarters to Chicago, a central hub more appropriate to the current world economic dynamic between the newly developed Eastern economies and a reunited Europe. Its other choice was Houston, but finally it chose Chicago. Likewise, in the first days in the millennium the traditional power vortex of the Northeast yields to the Midwest and the eastern-most time-honored teams, Red Sox and Yankees, yield to teams in the center of the country - Houston, St. Louis and Chicago. When the Sword of Discrimination removes the illusion of every-day life, all that is left is baseball. Where is the center of the world in the new milenium, Houston or Chicago? The next six games of the World Series will answer Black Elk’s riddle. (Note: Chicago won. It is the center of the world, but I prefer Detroit.) . . . the essence of Taoism can be readily seen in the annual tv show, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” At the end of the show Linus appears disappointed because once again the Great Pumpkin did not appear, after he stayed up all night watching. But he tells Charlie Brown, that next year he would find a “more sincere” pumpkin patch. I found Detroit to be the essence of sincerity. Philadelphia as well. And dreams come more readily in the Appalachians than in New Hampshire due to some inherent sincerity of the earth and the place and the people and weather maybe which I do not begin to understand but feel and intuit. 'Tis a love thang. In Taoism it is called chi. When places have a specific sincerity they are said to have chi. And a mythical totem animal it often associated with them – the Manitou dragon in the Great Lakes, the Lock Ness Monster. Chi manifestations. Elvis. Elvis sightings are chi manifestations. Black Elk speaks in prophecy & the American Indian guides us in dream on this continent. But not others outsied our borders (perhaps it is what makes us Americans. Chief Joseph said, "Our spirit will walk among you."). AS we enter the new millenium the Manitou swims in the Center of the World from city to city. It is the way of all things.

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