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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Father Elias waxes lyrical about the morality of the fight game

For me, the moral discussion about combat sports is less concerned with the fighters than with the spectators!

The moral risk of combative sports is not so much in the fighting itself, as in the moral disposition of those watching it. Not the fighters, but the spectators are in urgent need of education. Young boxers have trainers, who often are good teachers of life, but the spectators, whom do they have?

I believe the symbolic language of power games (in other words, competitive fighting) naturally leads a community to a supremely realistic moment, a key element of the common good: to adore the almighty Creator. If it doesn’t lead there, it drags each spectator into is own little quagmire of a virtual imagery, where is lonely soul can briefly find back its lost ideal self – which might actually be quite a beastly one.

It’s all about the difference between Greece and Rome, between the Olympic stadium and the Roman amphitheatre.

The Olympic Games were a religious feast. Sure, the violence of its boxing and free fight contests should not be underestimated – today it wouldn’t be tolerated. But the champions were educated free citizens and their names were known to all. City walls were broken down in their honour. They were persons, part of the community.

On the other hand the gladiatorial fights (their religious origins are not clear, and surely were lost) were creating a kind virtual reality for civilians far away from danger and warfare, protected by law and order. Much in same way today’s computer games create violent fantasies in a society that often condemns fighting itself, and is no longer aware of the cost of freedom.

It’s very paradoxical! Those gladiatorial fights were deadly for the actors themselves, but somehow only virtual for the spectators. The gladiators were only slaves. For us it’s hard to grasp what this means! Those men had lost their freedom, so they didn’t really live - and therefore they couldn’t really die… Their names were sometimes known, but their corpses usually ended up in mass graves anyway.

During their lives, they were never part of society; they did not share the common good. Only some regained freedom before death. Greek athletes had a face and received a symbolic crown as sign of glory. If they happened to kill someone during a bout, they would not be proclaimed winner! Gladiators on the contrary were covered in an armoury that hardly protected them, but that was exaggeratedly decorative and hid their face. The aim of the fight was to kill – even though historians have calculated that at the time of Emperor Augustus a gladiator’s chance of dying during a fight was ‘only’ 10%.

So this is what I would like to consider: Where do we go to watch a fight? Do we choose Olympia or the Colosseum? Do we want to be led beyond the limits of our narrow world, or do we want to compress everything into our own fantasy? Are we open to a higher adventurous ‘real’ reality or do we reduce everything to our all too predictable virtual reality? Combat sports may play a crucial role in saving today’s youth from a losing themselves in fantasy’s vanity– and from wasting their once given lives
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Parable from Jeremy

A young boy travelled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the Sensei "What do you wish from me?" the master asked. "I wish to be your student and become the finest kareteka in the land," the boy replied. "How long must I study?" "Ten years at least," the master answered. "Ten years is a long time," said the boy. "What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?" "Twenty years," replied the master. "Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?" "Thirty years," was the master's reply. "How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked. "The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way."

I suppose different people will get different things out of this story. The moral of this story from my perspective is if we view one aspect of life and only accept that view as being everything to us then we may come unstuck and lose our way, it always pays to keep the mind and spirit open. I hope that I have achieved that.
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Philosophy of Fighting

Some more wisdom from Father Elias

Fighting is communication, ending in a cry for communion of all with something that is above all. That’s what the ancient Olympics were about: one day of adoration, prayer and sacrifice, five days of competition, one last day of thanksgiving.

Combat sports, more than any other sport, educate not only the fighters, but also the spectators. The way you watch is the way you are, or will be. A bout is communication and communion, firstly between the fighters themselves, but also between the fighters and the spectators.

I’ll try to explain what I think is a very elementary truth. The “flesh”, our bodily nature created by God as a good thing, expresses something of the ways of our spirit as it walks towards its Creator, its God. On our long pilgrimage towards Him, there are many truths that our spirit and flesh understand and teach to each other, these truths shape our identity.

I’ll make two distinctions:
  1. Some truths we make ourselves: they are the realizations of our life. Whatever we achieve in our life for a good cause and by giving ourselves, is our truth for ever. It can not be taken away from us, but we will share it with our beloved ones in the eternal light.
  2. Other truths are unchangeable, like our human nature, the elements of the universe, and God (at least, if He exists).

  1. Some of those unchangeable truths we can find by the power of our own spirit
  2. Other unchangeable truths we must receive from above, by another “spirit”.

Whether the human spirit can discover or even prove the existence of a “God”, well, that’s quite a question… But it can certainly not prove that Jesus is God and that God is “Trinity”. Those things matter of faith.

The knowledge of unchangeable or “necessary” truths is “science”, or at least that’s what science should be. As an engineer admit remorsefully, that in our world today technology has usurped the place of true science.

The knowledge of the noble causes that are worth even giving one’s life for is “wisdom”; the knowledge of the means to do this is “prudence”. As a priest I remorsefully admit, that too often Christian wisdom has been reduced to set of moralistic principles, ignoring Gods unfathomable wisdom and His amazing prudence: He offers to us His Son as a means to give ourselves totally for the good causes we have discovered and chosen…

Are you getting bored? Well, it seems that fighting is an image-in-the-flesh of science, whereas dancing is an image in the flesh of wisdom. Fighting educates and expresses man’s thirst for transcendence and therefore shapes his natural and autonomous religious attitude. Dancing forebodes his union to God, who has promised to reveal His own mystery to man.

Fighting leads to adoration, dancing prepares contemplation…