Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Cruel Sport

Paul Simon wrote:
In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving", but the fighter still remains

I have never liked boxing as a sport.  I don't believe it's even a sport; it's only called such to give a veneer of civility on what otherwise is simply cage fighting with rules.  It's people hitting each other in the hopes of winning large sums of money, for the benefit of bloodthirsty coaches and spectators.

This choice of career leaves both physical and mental scars, no matter how accomplished the fighter might be.  Statistics show that traumatic brain injury associated with boxing occurs in approximately 20% of professional boxers.  The most famous case would be Muhammad Ali, who was a boxing champion and Olympic gold medallist in his prime.  However later in life he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Syndrome which was attributed to boxing-related brain injuries.

Just recently a boxer in Saint John NB was taken to hospital for emergency surgery to treat a bleed in the brain after he was knocked out during a match.  A quick Internet seach reveals that there have been fighters who have died on the mat as a result of a hit.

This sort of carnage isn't limited to the boxing ring.  Hockey, American football, and other sports that involve players hitting each other all contain risks of concussion and injury.  No amount of safety equipment will prevent that; in fact, the more padding a player puts on, the harder they will get tackled.

The reason the fighting continues of course, is that one of the basic human instincts is to compete over something: food, women, land, resources.  In order to present the appearance of civilization we cloak competitions with uniforms and rules, and call it sport.  Unfortunately some sports lend themselves to easily to brutality, and terrible injuries will continue as long as the people watching keep cheering for it.  Even on "The Flintstones" animated show, the two principal male characters would get tremendously excited whenever one of them happened to score tickets for "the fights".

Hockey was once my favourite sport.  Not any more.  I've refused to watch professional hockey for over two decades because of the increasing number of in-game brawls and injuries from hitting.  Too many players have been forced to retire early due to injury.  Some have even killed themselves because they couldn't cope with the physical or mental trauma.

The fighting has to stop, but it won't as long as there remains a demand for it.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Musical Beliefs

This afternoon, a song came into my head that I remember singing way back in grade school with the choir.  After searches on what I could recall of the lyrics turned up very little, I tried keywords instead and came up with my answer.

"The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come" is a Christian allegorical tale written in 1678 by John Bunyan.  The work is considered one of the most important works in English literature, and has been dramatized in film and on stage several times.  It's a story of a man named "Christian" who is guided by "Evangelist" on a very difficult journey toward peace and salvation.

In 1978 a musical based loosely on the book was written by Nick Taylor and Alex Learmont, called simply, "Pilgrim".  It was songs from this musical that the choir I sang in performed on a mini-tour of several local grade schools.

The lyrics of the first song are, in part:

There's a hard time a comin'
When the judgment bell will toll
There's a hard time a comin'
And the testing of the soul

I do not consider myself Christian.  I was raised in a secular household and we celebrated the high holidays in our own manner.  However the school I was attending at the time was an English Protestant school.  The Lord's Prayer was recited at the beginning of each weekly assembly and many of the kids attended church on a regular basis.  A few kids would ask me if I believed in God and I found it difficult to frame an answer that they would not find offensive.

Over the years I have been to many services in several Christian denominations in a personal effort to understand and respect the belief system, but always viewed the rites from an outsider's perspective.  I have sung in choirs that performed masses but the meaning behind the words has meant little.

A friend once asked for advice on behalf of her son: they weren't Christian but the choir her son sang in was going to perform liturgical works that he personally didn't believe in, so how could he in good conscience continue with the choir?  My answer was that he didn't have to believe in what the songs were about; he should simply consider them as a vocal challenge.  After all, I had done the same with all the choirs I sang in.

The actor David Tennant once joked in a skit, "You don't have to BE English to teach it."  So you don't have to be Christian to enjoy or perform Christian-related music.