Sunday, February 01, 2015

On Super Bowl Sunday: Thomas Merton's Thoughts on Pro Football

This weekend we celebrate two totally diverse events. On Saturday, it was the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth. On Sunday, we observe what has come to be a truly American ritual (also observed in many parts of the world): the Super Bowl  So, is there an intersection between Thomas Merton's reflections and Super Bowl  XLIX?  You'd be surprised that the two celebrations do intersect in some form.

Our thanks to Rev. Brian Taylor for including this information in his wonderful reflection on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Santa Maria de la Vid Norbertine Center in Albuquerque.

Thomas Merton wrote the following in his 1968 journal - on the way to Asia-  about a crowning American ritual. He was sitting dead tired with a glass of bourbon in the lounge of the Franciscan Friary watching pro football on TV--at midnight! 

Image: Feraliminal via Open Clip Art
 The Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys - and it was, I must say, damn good football because it was pre-season and many contracts depended on it. 

 Football is one of the really valid and deep American rituals. It has a religious seriousness which American religion can never achieve. A comic, contemplative dynamism, a gratuity, a movement from play to play, a definitiveness that responds to some deep need, a religious need, a sense of meaning that is at once final and provisional: a substratum of dependable regularity, continuity, and an ever renewed variety, openness to new possibilities, new chances. It happens. It is done. It is possible again. It happens. Another play is decided, played out, “done” (replay for the good ones so you can really see how it happened) and that’s enough, on to the next one - until the final gun blows them out of a huddle and the last play never happens. They disperse. Cosmic breakup. Final score 31-37 is now football history. This will last forever. It is secure in its having happened. And we saw it happen. We existed.

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