One of the greatest benefits of Sport participation, in my view, can be summed up in this line: “Know Thyself.” Or, as I like to call it: Knowledge of Self~Other (I include “other” because, as quantum physics tells us, there really is no definite boundary between you and I—we are aspects of one unified whole).
As Bruce Lee says, one gains knowledge through relationship, and since we are always already in relationship with everything else, all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge. The deeper the “self” knowledge, the more we realize it includes “other.” And what better (public) avenue is there for intimate contact with an “other” than sport? In the final pages of 11 Rings, Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty conclude with this remark (emphasis mine):
“This is the essence of what we’ve been trying to convey in this book: that the path of transformation is to see yourself as something beyond the narrow confines of your small ego—something that ‘includes everything’(quoting ninth-century Buddhist monk Tozan Ryokai).”
I think this has major societal implications: a shift in mindset from ME to WE*** (look for postscript just below), or as Martin Buber would have it, from an I-It orientation to an I-Thou.
***Postscript-9-17-16: Bernie DeKoven suggested that perhaps a better way to describe this shift is not from a ME to WE, but to a ME and WE. He rightly points out that Buber’s I-Thou is really an I and Thou, and that WE loses meaning if the ME is negated. This may appear to be a subtle distinction, but it really is a profound one that more accurately represents what I am trying to say. I am grateful for the clarity that DeKoven has provided me.***
Of course, this depends on how sport/competition is framed by the adults involved (coaches, parents, professional athletes). Unfortunately, the potential for self~other knowledge is almost never realized where winning is the ultimate goal.
I will conclude this post with another passage from 11 Rings. This time, Jackson and Delehanty quote Martin Luther King, Jr. (emphasis mine):
“…on a deeper level, we are all part of an interconnected whole.
Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke eloquently about this phenomenon. ‘In a real sense, all of life is interrelated,’ he said. ‘All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.'”