Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night gushed over the late boxer as a "transcendent" specimen of humanity. Her over-the-top performance put me in mind of what I call the 'Pincers Passage' in Heidegger's 1935 lecture, Introduction to Metaphysics (tr. Ralph Manheim, Doubleday 1961, p. 31, emphasis added.
This Europe, in its ruinous blindness forever on the point of cutting its own throat, lies today in a great pincers, squeezed between Russia on the one side and America on the other.From a metaphysical point of view, Russia and America are the same; the same dreary technological frenzy, the same unrestricted organization of the average man. At a time when the farthermost corner of the globe has been conquered by technology and opened to economic exploitation; when any incident whatever, regardless of where or when it occurs, can be communicated to the rest of the world at any desired speed; when the assassination of a king in France and a symphony concert in Tokyo can be 'experienced' simultaneously, and time as history has vanished from the lives of all peoples; when a boxer is regarded as a nation's great man; when mass meetings attended by millions are looked on as a triumph -- then, yes then, through all this turmoil a question still haunts us like a specter: What for? -- Whither? -- And what then?
Time for my annual Super Bowl Sunday rant. But perhaps I should not be so harsh on the masses who need their panem et circenses to keep them distracted from matters of moment, both secular and spiritual. The Latin could be very loosely translated as 'food stamps and football.'
I won't be watching the game. I don't even know which teams are playing. Undoubtedly there is more to football than I comprehend. But the games are nasty, brutish, but not short, and I know all I need to know about the implements of shaving.
As for the buxom wenches who strut their stuff during the half-time show, the less I stoke the fire below the better.
I am no fan of spectator sports in general. We have too many sports spectators and too many overpaid professional louts. I preach the People's Sports, despite the leftish ring of that.
Remove your sorry tail from the couch of sloth and start a softball league with your friends and neighbors. Play volley ball whether in a pool or on dry land. Engage your fellow paisani in a game of bocce. (But don't call it bocce ball. Do you call tennis tennis ball?)
Or take the Thoreauvian high road, leave the People behind, and sally forth solo into the wild. As Henry said, "A man sits as many risks as he runs." Old Henry puts me in mind of Cactus Ed, the Thoreau of the American Southwest.
In Vox Clamantis in Deserto Edward Abbey has it right:
Football is a game for trained apes. That, in fact, is what most of the players are — retarded gorillas wearing helmets and uniforms. The only thing more debased is the surrounding mob of drunken monkeys howling the gorillas on.
Which is harder, to run 3.1 miles or 26.2? They are equally hard for the runner who runs right. The agony and the ecstasy at the end of a race run right is the same whether induced by 42.2 km of LSD or 5 km of POT. Above, I am approaching the final stretch of a 5 K trail race (2nd annual CAAFA 5K Race Against Violence, Prospector Park, Apache Junction, Arizona). The date is wrong: should be 3/21/2010. I finished in 45th place in a mixed field of 113, and 28th among 44 men. Time: 33:38.8 for a pace of 10:49.8. That's nothing to crow about, but then I'm 60 as is the gal right behind me. Twenty years ago I could cover this distance at a 7:45 min/mile pace. There were five 60+ males and I finished first among them. Not a strong field! But a beautiful cool crisp morning and a great course and a great run. I could have pushed harder! Could have and should have.
LSD: long slow distance. POT: plenty of tempo. Both terms borrowed from Joe Henderson.
Theodor W. Adorno, "Education After Auschwitz" in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (Columbia UP, 1998, tr. Pickford, pp. 196-197):
Sport is ambiguous. On the one hand, it can have an anti-barbaric and anti-sadistic effect by means of fair play [Adorno employs the English phrase], a spirit of chivalry, and consideration for the weak. On the other hand, in many of its varieties and practices it can promote aggression, brutality, and sadism, above all in people who do not expose themselves to the exertion and discipline required by sports but instead merely watch: that is, those who regularly shout from the sidelines.
An excellent observation, first published in 1967. As valuable as participation in sports is, spectatorship often demeans, brutalizes, levels, reduces individuals to members of a mob, while elevating worthless thugs to the level of heroes. What would Adorno have to say about the situation now, over forty years later? In particular, what would he have to say about cage fighting? I don't watch this trash, but a chess partner told me about a match (if that is what they call it) he had seen on TV recently.
An Hispanic and a white guy were in the cage, and the Hispanic's trainer was egging him on with cries of por la raza, for the race. Now what would liberals and leftists say about this? Would they celebrate the 'diversity' of it? And if the white man's trainer had urged the honkie to stand up for the white race, what would they say? They would scream 'racism' of course. But it is not racism when an Hispanic does it. This is one of the standard double standards of the Left. Jesse Jackson spouted similar nonsense a while back. According to Brother Jesse, it is not racism if a black does it. Is rational debate possible with people as benighted as this? (By the way, that is what we call a rhetorical question. I am clothing a statement in the grammatical garb of a question. Rational debate is not possible with people as benighted as this.)
I am not saying that Adorno would apply such a crude double standard. He is a thinker of power and subtlety. But I could be wrong. After all, he is a leftist.