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January 4, 2005

The Team that doesnít play together

On Sunday Randy Moss walked off the field before the game was over and the press made a huge deal out of it. I think there was only two seconds left on the clock and the Vikings had to turn the ball over and score a touchdown. Randy may have just been realistic. I could almost hear him say, ďCímon guys, the gameís over, whatís the big deal? We lost. Iím headed for the showers.Ē
I saw that game and the Vikings could have won it, but they had too many fouls, especially the one that called back an amazing catch and touchdown by Randy Moss. Iím sure Randy wasnít happy about that. He caught the winning pass and the game would have turned out differently. But that wasn't the only play they had trouble with. I donít know football very well, but in the replay it looked like Daunte Culpepper would have been sacked if not for that personal foul and the pass probably wouldnít have been completed in the first place.
More football oriented sports fans could probably analyze why this team is not winning. It has one of the greatest Quarterbacks in the NFL and a couple of the greatest receivers. Individually this team, In my opinion, has some real talent and athletic ability. So why arenít they winning? I canít answer that, but it probably has something to do with how well they play together. Randy Mossís walking off the field when the game was almost over was not the straw that broke the camels back. It probably is a good indication that he was frustrated with a team that wasnít playing together.
What will solve the Vikingís problems? Itís hard for me to say, but Randy Moss walking off the field is only a symptom of deeper team issues. It is a symptom of some underlying problem. In life we often see people throw up their arms and say, ďThatís it, humanity is doomed. The game is over. This team sucks.Ē Sometimes itís frustrating to see ignorance and prejudice and hate and violence and see people getting away with murder and other unspeakable crimes. And often those that think they are pulling the weight for the team often get frustrated. They work hard at work, they work hard for their causes and they see things falling apart or going against their ideals. What else is there to do?
Here are some ideas to help the team of humanity:
1. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Have hope that humanity is moving in the right direction. If we look at even something like slavery, which was commonly accepted as ok in the not so distant past, we see that weíve come a long way. It may not be perfect yet, but in the U.S. anyway, slavery is not tolerated and most people would agree that itís not OK. I know Slavery is still a problem in other parts of the world and the U.S. has had problems with sweatshops recently, but those are being exposed. Not so long ago either, we had World War II, where Hitler and Nazi Germany with their allies tried to take over the world. Italy had Mussolini and Europe was divided. Now people drive freely from North to South and donít even need passports between the countries. The currencies of many nations were abandoned for the common Euro. Economically they were probably forced to work together to survive. But in the recent past, would any of these countries have dreamed of this level of cooperation and openness? Each of us needs to take a step back and look at the big picture and have hope. Though itís tempting to walk off the field in the last play of the game, and feel like we are doomed because we have a lousy team, take a look at how far weíve come and have hope that itís moving in the right direction. (I canít say that for the Vikings, haha., but to me this seems like a better team than last years, especially since I didnít watch football at all last year.) Have hope and donít walk off the field just yet.
2. What are you going to do about it? When I really started listening to God, I found out that I was part of the solution. Those that are aware of the problems are in a greater position to become part of the solution. As I was riding the bus, I would see some people in trouble or see a homeless person that was sick or cold. Or when walking in the park see garbage lying around. At first I would become angry with the people that threw their fast food containers in the park. Then God would ask me, ďWell, Iím so glad you saw that, arenít you going to pick it up? Are there any other solutions to this problem?Ē Whenever I would pray to God to help those poor people I saw on the bus or at the bus stops I started to get the response, ďYes, you are right, now that you see it what are you going to do about it?Ē This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Often our reply is, Iím too busy or thatís someone elseís responsibility.
3. Education. And more of it. Do I need to elaborate on the benefits of education? If we want our team to perform better, we have to know what works and what doesnít work. We have to memorize the plays and know what the opponent is capable of and be ready for it. We should all learn from history. Leonardo da Vinci said, ďHe is a poor pupil who does not go beyond his master.Ē Education eradicates ignorance. As a society we are getting better and as a world we are getting better. Itís not as apparent when we only see our current situation, but when we look back in history we see that only the elite were educated. In Korean King Saejong the great said that the commoners needed a way to express themselves and so he and his scholars developed an ingenious phonetic alphabet that was easy to learn and then began translating literary works into this new script and teaching the people how to read and write. At this time, well before Gutenberg, King Saejong the great and his scholars also invented movable type so they could print educational material for the masses. Before that time, only the royalty, the ruling class and the scholars were educated. By the time the renaissance came around even an illegitimate child in provincial Tuscany like Leonardo da Vinci could become one of the greatest painters, draftsmen, inventors, anatomists, musicians and philosophers. We know education is needed, we need to each become educators for what we can, and we all need to learn from history and we need to place more emphasis on the education of our children and our society. If we value education as a solution, which we should, we need to place it higher on our list of priorities and elect officials and lawmakers who feel the same way. And we need to get involved. My wife served on the site council for our local school long after our children left that school because she felt that it was important. Itís one reason I was a Scout leader for 7 years even after my son dropped out of scouts. I felt it was important enough to give up my life for those years. We can all make a contribution to the education of others. As for ourselves. We must also continuously educate our selves to free us from deception and ignorance. One of my favorite ancient quotes is still, ďOne is taught in accordance with oneís ability to learn.Ē If we do not learn our lessons by being taught, will learn them the hard way.
4. Make better choices. Each of us makes choices. Last week on Wednesday, December 29th there was an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about the death of Susan Sontag, age 71. She is said to be an ďacclaimed Novelist and avant-garde star.Ē I found it interesting that she spent a good portion of her career educating people in Sarajevo. The article ended with a quote from one of Susanís books. ďWhat I want people to think about, ďshe said, ďis how serious war is. How it is elective. Itís not an inevitable state of affairs. War is not the weather.Ē The leaders in our country made it sound like war was the only alternative. That there was no longer any choice. But that is a choice in itself. Itís like walking off the field because the team canít play together. Everything is a choice. We should all stop pretending we donít have a choice because we are making choices anyway. Sometimes our choices are very difficult, and we have to swallow our pride. Sometimes we have to invest ourselves in the problems. The news article headline said that Susan Sontag lost a 30-year battle with Cancer but I say she won 30 more years of life investing herself in the world trying to make it better, the best way she knew how. We all make choices. We have global warming, we have pollution, so what choices can I make now to help that situation? One choice I made is that I wonít use artificial fertilizers and chemicals on my grass. Itís been proven to run off into our wetlands and our rivers and cause all kinds of problems with nature. Thatís a choice. I have weeds in my yard but at least Iím not contributing to a greater problem. Often the tough choices are not convenient, comfortable or desirable. But they will make a difference. Itís our choice.
5. Love each other. This seems like a sentimental platitude, but thatís because the word love is so often misused and is conditional. But the Beatles were right when they sand, ďAll we need is love.Ē We should let this guide our choices and our actions. Love includes respect for others. We should promote this in our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our homes. When there are great insults and wounds to heal, what really works to heal them?

Thatís five places to start. We are all part of the human race and there are no excuses. We can look at the world and see the game as lost or we can see the problems and become part of the solution. Pass it on. If enough people are part of the solution just think what we can do when we finally learn how to play together.

Posted by carl1236 at January 4, 2005 10:49 PM | Attitude


Wow John. That was quite a treatise, and a good one at that. When you look at the historical perspective it is true that things do indeed seem to be moving in the right direction. There are always groups who oppose any change no matter how positive. perhaps the rise of barbaric religious fundamentalism is a sign that progress is winning and that the enemies of progress are getting desperate.

As you know, I'm not a religious person, so I wonder if it was God talking to you in the park. Or was it Bob Dylan?
What good am I
if I know and don't do,
If I see and don't say,
if I look right through you,
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky,
What good am I?

Posted by: Jim at January 4, 2005 11:11 PM

Haha, thanks Jim. If I can quote the beatles, you can quote Bob Dylan! I like those lyrics. I've never really listened to Bob Dylan before. But it's kind of funny because just now I saw him on VH1 Classic, singing with the Traveling Wilburys, 'Inside Out'

As far as 'barbaric religious fundamentalism' That's nothing new. That's been going on for centuries. It brings up a good point... Anyone can use anything against others if that's what they are intent on doing. Fundamentalism isn't bad in itself, it's the use of fundamental beliefs against others that is the problem. We always have to ask ourselves what these Religious doctrines and teachings were intended for. In most cases it wasn't to hurt others, but to transform our own hearts. To change ourselves. What is it that is so distasteful about any beliefs, religious or otherwise when they are used to judge and condemn us? Basically I think it's that it invalidates our own experience. And no-one can live our own experience for us. People can misuse and abuse anything if it suits our needs (or more appropriately our desires) AND we are masters at justifying our actions and attitudes that are harmful to others.

Posted by: John at January 5, 2005 9:40 PM