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Friday, June 22, 2018

A Dog's Eye: pushing the envelope

A video came up in my news feed on Facebook this morning of a guy reviewing some spectacular football 'dives'. Overlooking the liberal use of expletives, it was quite funny so I shared it. I had already been thinking about this issue for a few days, since Australia lost to France in their World Cup 2018 opener.

Image result for the beautiful gameFootball, or soccer as we call it here and in the United States, is truly the world game. The FIFA World Cup is a larger event than the Olympic Games.With an estimated global television audience of nearly half the population of the whole world, and ticket sales of nearly 1.7 million, it is impossible to deny the popularity of what many call 'the beautiful game'.

I don't watch a lot of soccer. I watch Australia's World Cup qualifiers when they are on at a sensible time, and I check out as much of the World Cup action as I can. There is a blight on the beautiful game. An embarrassment which even casual viewers like myself cannot help but notice and shake our heads at. The dive.

Image result for soccer divesPlayers often take dramatic falls and have exaggerated reactions to minor injuries. This is particularly laughable for fans of rugby league which is perhaps the most physically violent of all sports. The collisions between players in rugby league make mortals shudder and wonder how they can keep playing. The thing is even in rugby league, players 'dive'. It does not happen as often as it does in soccer but it happens.

The purpose of diving is to win a penalty or free kick for your team. In league it is known as 'milking', and you will occasionally hear the referee refuse to give a penalty by actually calling out 'milking'. 

I don't like this at all. To me, it is not in the spirit of the game, but the laws of the game-both soccer and rugby league- are such that decisions about foul play or illegal tackles are in the hands of the referees who must exercise their judgement as to the severity and genuineness of the offence. With such subjective assessments and enforcement of the rules, mistakes are bound to occur.

Players push the envelope to gain every possible advantage for their team. If they can get away with it, if they can dupe the referee into awarding a penalty or free kick, then why not? Why not? Because it's poor sportsmanship. I would say that the majority of players don't do it. I wish no one did it, but sport, particularly professional sport which involves such ridiculous amounts of money, is a microcosm of life.

Nearly everyone drives above the speed limits. Normally just a little bit over: pushing the envelope. That's just one example. In every arena of life, people try to bend and stretch the rules to suit themselves, to gain every possible advantage. It's normal right?

It is normal, but it speaks clearly of the rebellious heart within us all. A resistance to authority and to rules. We just don't like being told what to do. In sport, and in life in general the stakes are high, so we feel it is necessary to push the envelope regardless of how we may embarrass or injure ourselves or other people in the process.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

relationDips: crabs

Image result for crabs
Fortunately I had a caring tablemate- two of them in fact- who served me by doing the hard yakka of cracking the crab shells and extracting what little meat was contained therein. Had I been left to my own devices, I might not have bothered. In fact, I seldom do trouble myself with crabs or lobsters because I simply don't feel it is worth the effort.

I can be bothered with prawns though, but prawns are easy to peel or shell - whatever the correct term is. Crabs are not. The thing is the meat tastes nice. The problem is there is very little of it. Having been fed for about twenty minutes on tiny little pieces of the sweet white meat, I felt as though I had eaten nothing. As more courses arrived, including tiny shells containing even tinier portions of flesh, I decided I had to contribute to the work. I cracked some shells and picked away, helping my dinner companion finish all the crabs.

Looking at the impressive pile of shells left behind only made me smile, as I fought the desire to cross the road and order a big steak.

My dinner partner loves seafood. It is her first choice and she delights in the labour intensive consumption of crabs. I'm a little bit of a lazy eater. Although I referred to steak, I rarely eat it, preferring rice and pasta dishes instead which are very easy to consume. Had my stomach been big enough I could have easily wolfed down a couple of plates of stir fry ostrich with rice in the same time it took to eat maybe 50g of crab.

As I do, I reflected on this event. Good relationships, like eating crabs, require a lot of work: patient toil to reap sometimes only a small reward. The cumulative effect of these small rewards is invariably quite satisfying. There is no rush to finish the crabs. Crab lovers understand the process takes time and they enjoy it. It's not about eating, it's about enjoying a meal.

Perhaps this is why so many relationships struggle. Firstly, a lack of patience. Secondly, a lack of understanding of the process. Thirdly, an over emphasis on the result, and finally a lack of commitment to the necessary work.

I may never be a crab lover, but I believe I can learn to be better at relationships. Even if I never fully appreciate crabs, I am thankful for this experience of eating them, and I do appreciate the importance of good relationships.

Image result for crabsTo finish I must honour the servant heart of the beautiful lady who served me that night. Both she and her daughter literally had me eating out of the palm of their hands, because they thought nothing of helping me to enjoy a meal with them. Crack! One incy wincey piece of crab for you...crack! One incy wincey piece of crab meat for me.

Wow! There's a radical idea. What if the husband and wife served each other in humility. Now there's a marriage made in heaven.

Friday, June 1, 2018

relationDips: Samson and Delilah

It's a familiar story, even if you are not a Bible reader or believer.
When people want to commend men on their strength they'll often call them Samson. The name of this Biblical judge who led Israel for 20 years is synonymous with strength, but just as significant as his superhuman strength was his weakness for women. One cannot think of Samson without also thinking of Delilah. She was the instrument of his ultimate downfall, but Samson had been playing with fire ever since his hormones kicked in.

Much to the disappointment of his parents, Samson chose a Philistine, a foreigner, as his first wife. The wedding night ended in disaster. Samson did not get to marry the woman he desired, and as a result of her betraying him, he blew his stack and went on a murderous rampage. The woman was then given to another man. We are also told in the book of Judges that Samson visited a prostitute on one occasion. No doubt that wasn't the only time, and some time afterwards he met Delilah, and he fell hard.

Samson seems to have enjoyed games. The riddle he posed to the Philistines who attended his wedding had a wager attached to it, and his toying with Delilah resulted in her getting angry with him and accusing him of not loving her. What Samson didn't know was that she had been paid a hefty sum of money to find out the secret of Samson's strength. Three times he gave her false information and three times she betrayed him. A guy with his head screwed on, one who wasn't thinking with his penis, would have decided after the first betrayal that perhaps Delilah was not someone he could trust. Given his position as Judge of Israel and the fact that he was a Nazarite (dedicated to God from birth: no strong drink or haircuts), some may wonder why he played such dangerous games.

Image result for samson' storyWhen Delilah played the 'you don't love me card' she easily manipulated Samson into revealing his secret. She cut his hair while he slept then called in her Philistine paymasters who burned out Samson's eyes and dragged him away into slavery. Imagine how he felt, blind and chained to a grinding mill walking in circles day after day.

He had a lot of time to reflect on what had happened and I suspect at some point he realized what a fool he had been, and surely accepted his fate as the consequence of putting his relationships with women above his calling from God. He might have wondered how his life would have turned out differently if he had taken his parents' advice and married an Israelite. If he had been content. If he had been obedient. If he had used his brain to make decisions. If he had not sought exotic food and sensual stimulation.

The thing is most men will face this struggle with their sex drive at some stage. Men who become addicted to sex. Men who allow resentment to fuel sexual misconduct. Men who allow boredom to drive them to dangerous pursuits. Men who grow weary of sandwiches and want to eat seafood platters. Men who aren't satisfied with one serving. 

Leaving aside Samson's superhuman strength, his story is something to which many people can relate. An inability to control appetite, and the suffering brought about by poor choices.

Samson repented and asked God for a grand finale to his life: one last display of his faith and God's power. He died in a glorious manifestation of the superhuman strength which was his gift from God: a gift which he had wasted and abused.

Despite Samson's bizarre life, of which we only read a little in the book of Judges- chapters13-16, he is considered to be a hero of the Christian faith. Hebrews 11:32-34 mentions Samson alongside David, arguably Israel's greatest king. (David also had a big problem with women, but that's another story.) Hebrews 11 states that these men and all the others listed, conquered kingdoms, administered justice and had their weakness turned into strength.

Makes you think, doesn't it?