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Watching or Playing?

It’s the bottom of the ninth. The score is tied. The count is full. The pitcher goes into the windup, delivers, and—crack! The batter hits a long fly ball all the way to the fence. The center fielder pumps his legs just as fast as he can make them, times his leap, reaches out to intercept the ball as it is about to clear the fence—

Watching can be fun. Whether or not you’re a sports fan, we all have our favorite spectator sports. Television news, surfing the Internet, people watching at the mall. There are enough interesting things going on that I could easily fill my life up with watching them happen. Most people do. There’s a certain enjoyment in the moment of being a spectator.

At Level 3, I am clear about my life purpose and seek to express it as often as possible in a way that creates value. Most of the time, that will require me to be a player, not a spectator. The value in a baseball game is being created by the pitcher, the center fielder, the umpire, even the hot-dog vendor—rarely by the spectator. The value in television news is being created by the producer, the reporter, the anchor—rarely by the spectator. Many people live their lives as if the world would come crumbling down if they were not personally aware of all the goings-on in the world, as reported by CNN. It won’t.

As with all drugs of the mind, there is a certain short-term pleasure in spectator sports,. This short-term pleasure serves to distract us from the fact that we’re not on purpose. Like all drugs, these pastimes hook us by giving us a high level of initial enjoyment. Later, the enjoyment tapers off, but we keep watching, habituated, forgetting that we aren’t having fun any more.

The same goes for watching television, reading news, viewing pornography—all these provide empty promises to the spectator. We become like the poor “Waldos” in strip clubs, spending their paycheck on Friday nights watching girls undress with no hope of ever being with them in a real way, no hope of ever being more than a spectator.

The antidote to this drug addiction is participation. Find the smallest way to participate that creates value for you, that is on purpose. Dare to have an effect on the universe. Take a stand, interact with another human being, play. Even if you are not yet clear about your life purpose, from participation comes information, and from information can come clarity.

When the ballgame is over, the players, win or lose, can feel the sweat drying over their well-used muscles, can spit out the grit caked on their tongue and know deep inside that tonight they did something other people cared about. The spectators, fumbling to kick-start their brains so that they can hold an unfamiliar semblance of a conversation with their companions, go off in search of their next beer.

Richard Brodie
October 1999

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Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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