Whether or not cultures differ in terms of language or religion or the way people look, there are always similarities, even among cultures a half world apart.
While in Southeast Asia recently, and then again in the Bahamas, I found myself alone in my hotel room – usually in the very early hours of the morning – watching cricket.
I would agree with anyone who would pause me at this point and ask what watching cricket overseas alone in a hotel room for hours is doing in a podcast on spirituality. But there are two thoughts that linger because of that experience that I want to share with you. Hear me out and hopefully you will see something deeply spiritual in this, also.
If you know me at all, you know that I am a big baseball fan. But Cricket? What little I ever saw of it made no sense to me – none at all. I used to wonder what anyone saw in it.
Ah, but when you wake up in a hotel room in Southern Asia three hours before your breakfast meeting and four channels all have cricket on and the Wi-Fi in your room is weak – you get a little bored and say, “Ok, why not.” And you watch without understanding at all what is happening. Words that make no sense to you describe action that makes less sense.
Do this for two weeks, then go to the Bahamas and do it again for four days – and something happens. The words begin to make sense. You know what an over is. You understand now what T20 stands for and why there is only one inning. You know what a wicket is and why it must be protected. The terms bowler and batsman and boundary all make sense in this context.
And you realize all along this wasn’t about an inferior undertaking but a lack of cultural competence and respect. You realize that what you had always treated as cultural superiority was simply cultural ignorance. And you begin to think about how often we do this: note a difference and attach value to it based on what you have been taught is acceptable; and using your appreciation for what you know and like and enjoy as a way to think you are better than others.
I loved finding yet another way to celebrate athleticism; but even more I loved shedding once again the ways of an ugly American and growing to appreciate more of what the world has to offer.
The second thought derives from what I saw riding in cars and vans for hours on end through remote villages in Southern Asia. No matter where we went, children and their family, friends, or parents were using whatever they could find or afford and playing whatever version of cricket they could cobble together.
In one very poor village, two small huts were separated by a dry dirt patch with a field of rice on the near horizon – and on that small patch a father was bowling the ball toward his son – whose makeshift bat was rudimentary at best. But you saw the joy on their faces as they spent the afternoon in revelry together.
It didn’t take long for me to think back to my childhood, and the Saturday afternoons Dad would take me out into the yard for a catch. I was very touched by the scene of that father and that child. This was more than me happy to have learned how to enjoy a new sport. This was I realizing at a very deep level how we are all the same the world over.
Literally halfway around the world, in a poor village, different race, different language, different circumstances, different everything: children playing with parents in the yard creating memories and just wanting to while away an hour and leave the worries of the world behind.
We aren’t so different after all.
Enjoy this journey, gentle listener. There are new joys to be found, and new bonds to forge us together into one happy family on this, our journey Into the Mystic.