We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, November 1, 2013


Last Saturday (October 26th), the Minnesota Gophers football team defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team that the  Gophers had not defeated since 1960.  Few saw this win coming.  Nebraska is the more talented team and has a solid, almost storied winning tradition.  Minnesota had not been playing well in Big Ten play up to last Saturday, in spite of an unexpected win over Northwestern. Jerry Kill, the Gophers coach, was on medical leave to deal with epilepsy.  And not only was the  victory unexpected, but even less expected was the fact that on Saturday Minnesota was clearly the better team on the field.  They did to Nebraska what Nebraska normally does to everyone else—pushed their opponents around and dominated them physically.

The question is, why?  The how is not as hard to explain.  Minnesota played a better game.  But, why?  In reading the various descriptions of the game, it becomes clear that the Gophers won and the Cornhuskers lost because of intangibles—metaphysical realities that cannot be measured and deny empirical analysis but are real for all of that.  Motivation.  Determination.  Loyalty.  Inspiration.  Team Spirit.  Attitude.  The Gophers played inspired football.  Jerry Kill was at the game and spoke to them several times; his presence was inspirational.  The players knew that Coach Kill is going through a hard stretch with epilepsy, and they didn't want to let him down.  His toughness and determination in the face of adversity, furthermore, was an inspiration to them.  All intangibles.  All real.

Now, the Gophers have worked hard on conditioning.  They are a generally well-coached team.  One can never overlook the physical nature of the game, and without all of the hard work and practice they couldn't even get out on the field let alone win.  Every Big Ten team works on conditioning and has a good coaching staff including Nebraska.  The Gophers won last Saturday because of the intangibles, which have to do with the human spirit.  It was a metaphysical victory won on the higher (or deeper) plane of the human spirit.

So, don't believe in God—or believe, but don't claim that spiritual realities are not real.  Don't look at the metaphysical as being phony or funny.  What is deepest in us and most compelling is a reality that is beyond the physical, cannot be measured, and defies empirical analysis.  It is the human spirit.  The image of God.  Amen.