Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sports Metaphor II

The bread and circuses effect is not limitted to pro sports; Lindsay Lohan has replaced Brittany Spears, who was co-champion with Paris Hilton, as the current champion and media sweetheart. And of course, the so-called ‘news’ in all its forms: print, radio, TV and internet, feed and thrive on the bread and circuses thing. I’m planning a rant on the so-called ‘news’ down the road a piece.

Anyhow, Lindsay Lohan shows that sports isn’t the only bread and circuses thing, but sports, in all its forms, is probably the most influential. After all, there’s no ‘Lindsay Lohan’ metaphor, and people don’t go around talking about ‘the Lindsay Lohan of life.’

Again, sports has a place, going to a game or watching one is no better or worse form of entertainment than going to a movie. It’s the unconscious dominance of the sports metaphor, how it trivializes and oversimplifies the important life challenges and opportunities by encouraging us to think about and compare them to a game or sports event that is a problem.
Yes, there are aspects of living, politics and business that are like a game. But life, politics and business are bigger than a game, more complex than a game and require more from us than watching a game. There are mysteries, spiritual depths and cosmic consequences to life, politics and business that games simply do not have. We miss these when we use the sports metaphor and compare life, politics and business to a sports event.

We tend to stay on the surface of things when we use the sports metaphor, making things simpler than they are, having a short attention span and wanting instant gratification. We want the game or life event to be over in two-four hours, we want snarky comentary, we want instant replays, we want to speed through the commercials. And because of our unconscious addiction to the sports metaphor, we want those things in life, politics and business as well. We have no patience or tollerance for the long run, strategy or thinking things through. We want snarky comentary and instant replays.

Combine this, the sports metaphor effect, with the bread and circuses effect and you’ve got the current state of affairs in the USA. When the bread and circuses effect became one of the factors that destroyed the Roman Empire, it was a big deal, but not the end of the world. But now, as the bread and circuses effect and the sports metaphor effect contribute to the decline of the USA, it’s not just the decline and fall of the American Empire, but possibly the end of life on earth as we know it.

Now, I know this kind of talk and this kind of thinking is terrifically unpopular, that there’s a deep hundred year streak of anti-intellectualism in the USA. Please note that I’m engaging in this unpopular kind of intellectual critical thinking out of love, hope and optimism, not to tear things down.

As I’ve said, we can have both pro sports, the sports metaphor and healthy lives and a healthy society if we wake up now, become aware of what we’re doing and choose differently. Remember, if you always do (think & feel) what you always did, you you’ll always get, what you always got. So if you’re happy with how things are going here and in the rest of the world, just keep on doing what you’ve always done. But if you’re not happy, it’s time to change.

Here are few things I’ve encountered in the last week that make me think it’s time for a change. The Sierra Club reports that the USA fell from 39th (not so good) to 69th (worse) in our ability to reverse global climate chane. NPR reported that researchers found that 40% of high school graduates were unable to name the country we won our independence from. Exxon/Mobile made 52 billion in profits and paid not one dollar in Federal Income Tax. Rush Limbaugh in addition to having Elton John sing at his fourth wedding, just sold his NYC penhouse for $11 million. Four million people will no longer receive any unemployment or health care support, because one Republican, a different one every time, has blocked the fourth Senate vote to extend benefits. The President’s Commission on the Deficit reported that annual tax revenue covers only three Federal programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A summary of all the research into the state of the world’s oceans, found that the oceans are dying at a rate higher than previously thought and probably can not be restored.

In spite of all this, I still think we can change – change the direction of our individual and collective lives. The change needed is easy because it starts in your own heart and mind and in my heart and mind, and believe it or not, it’s my heart and mind (as yours is yours), and nobody can make me do anything with them that I don’t choose to do; see Victor Frankle’s Final Freedom.

The change we need is an inside job. When I take responsibility for my thinking, feelings and behaviors, become aware of their effects and choose other thoughts, feelings and behaviors, I’ll know what to do to make things better. Inside-out.

But if I continue as I have with the sports metaphor and bread and circuses – Outside-in, looking for short-range, non-systematic, quick fixes, blaming others and not taking responsibility for myself, things will continue as they are and get worse.

Inside-out or Outside-in; long range or short range; blaming or self-responsibility. Both pairs have a place, of course, but it seems to me that we, as Americans, have tilted to far to one side and need to get back into balance. What do you think?

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