Monday, January 31, 2011

On The Playing Field

Why would anyone go to the Super Bowl? It's wildly expensive, crowded, and will be nearly impossible to get in and out of the parking lot. How much easier to watch it on the ever-present HDTV, with expert camera angles, immediate replays, ability to see the best play in slow motion, and, even better, a way to pause the game for a dash to the bathroom or kitchen!

So why go? Because attending a live event adds power to the experience. Cheering and moaning are tons more fun in a packed crowd.  Also, the very hardship and the expense of the game make it an memory to be savored.

More than just the shared excitement in the Super Bowl, the game also marks the high point in the life of the professional football player. 

Only the best make it here. These players have dedicated themselves to the sport, honed their bodies, polished their skills and learned to work as a team, each one at peak performance, but doing so in connection with the entire team. The Super Bowl displays the pinnacle of sports, utilizing strategic creativity while staying within rules that make it a civilized match.

Most who cheer from the stands, screaming themselves hoarse, high-fiving or sharing anguish with friends, will not or never did actually play football. Even so, fans become important participants in the event. While the game would go on without them, their presence adds vital energy to the match. The invisible connection between the fans and the players weaves them together into a fascinating whole.

The live experience gives life. I wish I were going. I'm not vested in either team and both have my best wishes, but would love to feel the energy and be a part of this. However, I will take the HDTV route, more comfortable to be sure, but still removed.

That's the challenge of comfort, of course. The more comfortable we become, the less we experience much of the rawness of life--and we definitely prefer it this way most of the time. 

Again, think about the game. The most wealthy and influential will arrive in chauffeured limousines, so will not have to fight for a place to park or have to walk long distances in possibly inclement weather. They'll be ushered in, protected from being uncomfortably touched or shoved by strangers and then will watch the game in private suites, their food and drink brought to them, their own bathrooms available. Not for them long lines at over-priced concession stands and longer lines for toilet seats already used by many others. Nor, of course, do they actually play the game and get dirty, sweaty, bruised and beaten up.

The search for comfort provides the motivation for most of modern living. Once one level is reached, contentment does not set in, but immediately demands yet a higher level. Sod houses with open fires and little ventilation led to log cabins with fireplaces which led to insulated housing with furnaces, breezeways and porches which led to living spaces so perfectly controlled that there is no longer need of winter or summer clothing for indoor use. Now, in some houses we can adjust the temperature from our phones so it will be precisely to our comfort upon arrival.

When it is ever enough? Never. That's human nature. We are never satisfied . . . unless we make a radical decision to open ourselves to the Spirit of God and say, "Take me where You will, be it poverty or riches, be it comfort or discomfort, as I give myself to live fully devoted to You and to offering Your goodness to the world." Those words put us on the playing field, perhaps not with the fame of the Super Bowl players, but with equal satisfaction of putting our best out there.

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