Conscious religion part 2 - What does success look like?

Published: Fri, 05/05/23

Many years ago a man came to a few Stav lessons. He seemed quite fit and well coordinated and could have got pretty good if he had given it the time and effort. However, it turned out that his real passion was tennis and he was apparently nearly good enough to make it as a professional. Apparently the ‘nearly’ bit was a great source of frustration to this chap. At the time he was working some kind of agency job while playing as much tennis as possible and looking for the opportunity when he would break through to international competitions, the prize money, and sponsorship which apparently then materialises.
Our would be tennis pro must have been feeling rather desperate because he then asked me if Stav training could do anything to improve his game? Did I have any insights how he might get to the next level in his chosen sport.
In one sense he was certainly asking the wrong person. I know very little about sport in general, nothing useful about tennis in particular, and even less still about the path to the centre court at Wimbledon. If a total beginner in any sport asked for some basic pointers on balance, basic body mechanics, general fitness, and breath control I could probably make some helpful suggestions. For someone who had certainly put in his ‘ten thousand hours’ of practice on the court? Not really. To me, just letting go of a dream that seemed unlikely to be fulfilled would be the best thing for his peace of mind. Being a good club player and just enjoying tennis for the exercise, fun, and social contacts it can provide seems like a good result to me. However, that was not what success looked like to the would be tennis professional.
What does it take to become a top sports person who successfully competes at an international level? Every year thousands of young people compete in junior sports of all kinds and a great many of them have the potential to play in the world cup, win an olympic medal, or hit a tennis ball on centre court at Wimbledon. What happens? Recently I was told by someone who had been a very promising young footballer that the 16th birthday is the make or break point. Around that date the young person decides that sporting success will be the focus of their life and devotes themselves to training and participation. Or, they decide that accademic study, a ‘normal’ career, relationships, even just a social life, actually appeal more and the sport becomes a recreational pass time, or may be even dropped completely. On one level it might seem like ‘giving up’ and not ‘fulfilling potential’. On the other hand, young people who have deeply
participated in a sport will have seen first hand the price that the professionals have paid for their ‘success’ and know that all that glitters is not gold.
And yet, a great many people are obsessed with sport, as fans if not as participants. I suspect that a major appeal of the sporting life is that ‘success’, and therefore ‘failure’ are clearly defined in terms of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’. We all know what success looks like on the tennis court, the football field, the running track, or the boxing ring. Success is minutely measured in goals, fractions of seconds, batting averages, and positions in league tables.
There is nothing wrong with sports as fun and social activities. Games and contests have always been part of festivals and holidays. Rural communities would have wrestling, trials of strength and skill, perhaps archery, all as part of events such as the harvest festival. However, the highly organised sports, professionalised, and as big business, as we know them today largely date back to the mid 19th century with the rules of Association football in 1863, Rugby football in two forms in 1895, the Queensbury rules for boxing in 1867, the Laws of Cricket go back to 1788, in the USA, baseball in 1857 and so on. The development of all these forms of organised sport coincides with the industrial revolution and the rise of corporate capitalism and big business as we understand it today. Not only were the working lives of the masses regulated by the needs of capital, but recreation, entertainment, and leisure became standardised
commercial products too.
Who needs religion when working on the clock provides for your material needs and sport lifts our spirits when ‘our’ team wins, and encourages greater effort next time when they lose? It is very convenient when the definition of success and failure perfectly aligns with the ambitions of commerce, industry, and finance.
Industrialised society, as it has developed in the past two centuries has brought a degree of comfort and convenience which would have astonished the average person transported here from, say the year 1800. The price is that we forget that it is the earth mother and the sky father in harmony with each other that actually provides all that we need. Human beings are stewards of this planet and the greatest success is simply to find a state of harmony with our personal nature, other human beings along with all the other creatures we share this world with, and remember the Old Norse Rune Rhyme for Ar: ‘A good harvest is the profit of men, I say that the Lord has been generous.’ Human beings are dependent upon divine grace for their very existence on this planet and no matter how clever we get at manipulating resources, exploiting the environment, or building up financial ledgers life is simply about living until it is time to move on.
While we are here we make a choice. Matthew 6 v 6 tells us that you cannot serve two masters, we have to make a choice between serving God, or mammon. Mammon is a word that has been quietly dropped from recent translations of the Bible, which is significant in itself. Mammon offers success as trading your time for money, freedom for status, your integrity for belonging, and, for many, the greatest achievement on offer is scoring one more point than the opposition in a sporting competition.
Serving God means that success is realising your true purpose during this period of incarnation, being of service, being a good steward of all that you have been entrusted with, following your conscience, and being dedicated to the truth.
PS Many martial arts teachers resist the idea of incorporating competition into their system’s of training. Competing can provide an incentive to train hard and focus on developing good technique. However, in the real world success in conflict situations cannot be reduced to scoring points. In Stav we have five principles, each is a different definition of success. I will be sharing these principles in detail at Tickton on the 27th of May
Stavcamp in July will be another opportunity to discover more about the 5 principles and much else about Stav
Graham Butcher
21 Beaver Road
Beverley East Yorkshire HU17 0QN

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