Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Sports as Budo with a small ‘b.’

Below is an excerpt from an article at The Art of Manliness blog on the positive and important aspects of sport. Approached correctly, I liken sport to "Budo with a small b." The full post may be read here.

Organized sports, from college athletics to local Little League teams, are slowly coming back to life after being on lockdown. There are those who will say that these activities aren’t “essential.” But they’ve been saying that since before the pandemic. And they couldn’t be more wrong.

There are folks who have long argued that sports are just escapism. Plenty of teachers and professors think athletic teams are nothing but a distraction from serious learning, and even an encouragement to bad behavior.
There are now politicized critics who whine that high-level sports foster too much competition. That they are too militaristic. Too violent. 
One super-trendy claim is that athletic competition encourages “toxic masculinity.” 
Those complaints miss fundamental truths about sports, for males in particular. For many boys and young men, classrooms are uncomfortable places. Athletic teams are often a saving compensation. 
When I first arrived on a college campus, I had a bad reaction. I didn’t appreciate the smugness and sense of superiority that I encountered among lots of smart people at an Ivy League university. I didn’t like the softness of many scholars, and their disconnection from the hard knocks and grueling demands that life places on less coddled citizens out in the real world. I didn’t see much respect on campus for the people I grew up with — who value grit, humility, and hard work much more than philosophical navel-gazing.

To escape some of the things I didn’t like about academic life, and to get closer to people I could admire, I poured myself into sports. I originally played on the Yale football team, then shifted to rowing. I sometimes tell people that I majored in rowing in college, and that’s only partly facetious. 

Eventually I found an academic path that excited me, and managed to create a life of the mind that I’m proud of. But I retain a deep respect for the life of the sweaty, bruised, and exhausted body, as well. 

Because, done right, sport is not just play. It is not trivial. When undertaken as a discipline (which of course is completely different from watching as a spectator) sport can be one of the most formative activities any human ever takes part in. 

It wasn’t in a classroom that I discovered the power of resilience and stamina. It was in sports. That’s where I learned to keep going despite hard blows. That’s where I accepted the necessity of drudging labor, and the irreplaceable value of preparation. 

Sport is where I learned the very most vital lesson of my entire life — which is that in any really fierce battle, the competition is not the person across from you. The competition is your own pain threshold, your internal discipline, your perseverance. Can you defeat your own weaknesses and go beyond your comfortable limits?

So much for athletic competition not being educational. 

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