[singlepic id=255 w=320 h=240 float=center] I went to my first Monday Night NFL Football game this week. It was a very exciting opportunity to experience such a central piece of American pop culture, especially since I grew up in the Midwest in a football-watching family. My mom actually started getting interested in football as a result of wanting to feel included in her male coworkers' lunchtime conversations at the suburban Catholic hospital where she worked. For her studious dedication as a fan, she was rewarded with a Chicago Bears Super Bowl win in 1985 (Chicago 46, New England Patriots 10).
That was the last year I remember caring about football. This apathy continued for me throughout high school, college, and even in medical school at University of Michigan, where football is the closest thing to religion in the town. It did not earn me any popularity points at any of the schools I attended, since sports is the quasi-religion at most schools, athletes acting as demi-gods, and loyal fans as humble worshippers.
So, in my state of Being Open To Life, and Saying Yes, I went into Candlestick Park on Monday with an open heart and an open mind. What I noticed rushing in to all that open space were profanities. Adults yelling at other adults just because of the colors of the jerseys and hats they chose to wear. Adults telling other adults to "Go *%@& yourself!" in broad daylight, as if it were a completely acceptable and justifiable thing to do.
All in good fun, you might say.
Well, the loudness and general license to yell whatever-came-to-mind at whomever-happened-to-be-walking-by continued inside the stadium. In my state of openness, I felt very vulnerable, like I had stumbled into a warzone that I never meant to participate in.
I observed my own judgments come up, I felt my own discomfort at being around all the vicarious violence, and then I smiled at humanity. I noticed that throughout human history, every culture has had a means for its people to feel "at one" with something larger than themselves. Humans have an innate longing to gather, and to feel understood, and to express a group energy.
I looked around the bowl-shaped stadium and recalled my visit to the Coliseum in Rome. I watched the players dressed in helmets, body armor, and uniforms, and recalled a time when Roman citizens gathered by the tens of thousands to watch human gladiators battle ravenous animals, fighting to the death.
I also imagined tribal or indigenous island cultures creating ceremonies and rituals involving costume, dance, chanting, drumming, and roasting of animals for food. I noted how we "modern" civilizations tend to look at "primitive" cultures in a distanced, academic way, as if to say, "Aren't we lucky we've advanced beyond THAT?"
And right there, sitting in the stands of Candlestick Park, I felt a kind of oneness with humanity. I won't say that I got to a total state of equanimity, especially as I witnessed what I assumed were otherwise civilized adults arguing about the merits of standing versus sitting, a verbal altercation which ended in one of the men saying, you guessed it, "Why don't you go *%&^ yourself!"
But I did manage to find a Buddha-like source of joy in my heart to laugh, instead of cry, when the young man next to me, perhaps in his 20s, responded to the injury of the opposing team's player with the comment, "Yeah! Get him a stretcher! Take him off the field for the rest of the season! And amputate his leg while you're at it!"
I laughed not because I appreciated his comment. I laughed not because I joined in his disdain and free-flow remarks about another person just because he was wearing the jersey of the opposing team.
I laughed because I was observing yet another aspect of humanity.
We are one in our longing to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves. I looked around and saw the colored jerseys, hats, seat cushions, and beer containers as modern-day versions of tribal costumes. I listened to the roars and rants from the crowd and heard them as modern-day chants and battle cries. I saw the entire Candlestick Park as the modern-day expression of what has united us throughout time as human beings and produced grandiose structures like cathedrals, temples, arenas, theaters, and even town squares -- our need to feel oneness with SOMETHING.
What I was really seeing around me was vicarious passion. As a society, we need fans as much as we need the players on the field. Just like musicians need listeners. It became clear to me as I was sitting in the stands that I am here to find my own playing field, and not to remain a fan.
So the question I was left with, since I was not converted into any more of a football fan after this than I was going in, was, "Where do I find my feeling of oneness? How do I experience the release that these football fans experience by gathering here?"
I have a sneaky suspicion that when I fully admit all the ways in which I connect with this place - the place where I truly feel my own oneness with a spirit larger than myself - I will have found my power and unique medicine to heal and serve the world in my lifetime.
Where do you feel your oneness? Where do you experience your own passionate expression? Observe yourself and you might find clues toward the life you were meant to live.
Here's another video taken from the stands, including my non-duality hat and T-shirt combination!
Photo credit: http://sf49erstickets.com