Sport is like religion, we all know that. The annual cycle of sporting events mirrors the rituals that transform profane time into sacred moments and places. These repeated and regular experiences lift fans and athletes above everyday worries.
Most team sports are characterize by a sense of sacredness between players and fans. There is more to sport and religion than just transcending everyday life. Personal faith is possible if we place less emphasis on team sports and more upon sport as an individual challenge. Sport is an invitation to spiritual adventure.
Tomorrow’s Moto Grand Prix in Australia will see thousands of faithful attend Phillip Island for three days full of thrilling racing. The overall Grand Prix result was decide by the Spaniard Marx Marquez winning the Japanese Grand Prix with a decisive score of 77 points. Fans will still gather to cheer their favourite drivers and enjoy some top-class racing.
Like the cross-country runner and the sprinter, motorbike riders are also individual athletes. They don’t get caught up in team sports that imitate the pomp and circumstance of religious rites. Failure or success is a choice that the individual must make, often from within themselves. Runners may wonder if I can improve my personal best. A climber asks, If I make it to the top, will I be able return to base camp safe?
Victory And Personal Renewal
An athlete is effectively putting his or her life at risk, at least to practice victory and personal renewal, and the opposite, which is physical and emotional failure. These are variations on the universal theme of human existence: to live, be reborn, and then hurtle inexorably towards death. One motorbike rider described his sport as a “dance,” which fuses time and space.
The attraction to riding is in the feeling of being fully present on the bike. The past is only a collection of the last curves. At these moments, I see the future as far as I can see. The present consists of me and the bike. Sometimes sportspeople confront death in a literal sense. Omer Mei Dan, a BASE jumper, leaps from tall structures such as buildings. He has only seconds to open his parachut. In an interview with Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he said that he was proud to be a BASE jumper.
Fear is something I enjoy. It makes me feel alive. It is one thing to know when to smile, but it is quite another to be able to discern when to stop trying. This is the journey of faith. It is the basis of human spirituality. From this perspective, it is not important to be a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or other religious practitioner.
The athletes move towards their own spiritual confession, without any of the trappings that are associate with traditional religions and religious practice. This faith is based on the vitalising experience of spirituality and is completely secular. Despite Mei Dan’s many close encounters with death, he doesn’t appeal to any higher power.
Sport Spiritual Awareness
There will be no prayers from this mouth I am more atheist than any other. Spiritual awareness can be enhance by sport in the way that athletes embrace the tension between failure and renewal from moment to moment. This makes sport a ritual activity. Both athletes and their fans are very important to rituals. Valentino Rossi is a legendary motorcycle racer who began every race by sitting beside his bike and talking with her.
Rituals go beyond personal ceremonies. The experience is enhance by taking risks, which creates a ritual encounter with death and life at every bend of rider and bike on the course. Record-breaking performances or “personal bests” can be one thing. Spiritual insight, or being in the zone, is possible when you are aware of your surroundings.
We have learned from great religious leaders how to deal with the tension between failure and renewal in all experiences, especially when the stakes are high. Jesus played the game of mortality and died at the cross. The cross has been a source of Christian renewal and resurrection.
He also struggled with the inability to find happiness and contentment. He found spiritual renewal in enlightenment or nirvana paradoxically only after he abandoned his search for these things and accepted suffering as the intractable nature existence.
At first, Muhammad felt like a failure because of his self-doubts and low self-esteem. He accepted himself and found spiritual renewal, this time through a paradox. Faith and transcendent experiences can be created by ritual, facing failure and suffering, and making a decision about one’s mortality. These experiences are not exclusive to religion. Sport can be a powerful, secular spiritual practice if it is done well.