This paper attempts a pluralistic and post-structuralist reframing of sports - a social institution which is largely a red-amber-orange system in our culture today - in an integral operating system.

For me, the need for certain forms of competitive sport in our society comes into serious question– how do they show up through the four quadrivial lenses? Most forms of competitive sport encourage destructive behaviour, contribute to a demeaning system of profiteering from people’s baser instincts, germinate a toxic culture of violence and one-upmanship, and intensify the separatist impulse at the level of individual awareness orientation. I am hard pressed to see (except in highly private and mindfully managed sport environments) any of the following (pp 8-9):

  • the LR manifestation of an activity to build equality and inclusion and higher
  • the LL manifestation of openness to difference and higher
  • the UL manifestation of care beyond competition and higher
  • the UR manifestation of conscious behaviour and higher

Any kind of team spirit aspirations or attempts under the pressure of competitive performance and monetary incentive ultimately promotes the ‘us versus them’ dynamic, certainly inter-team, and also intra-team. Is this systemically in-built competitive orientation necessary in today’s world? I would argue that it is not only unnecessary but mostly detrimental, just as various aspects of neo-classical economics and capitalist business have become.

Sporting activity which encourages betterment over one’s own self, rather than others, passes that criteria set, I think. Sport as an instrument of body-work, movement, grace and presence is hugely beneficial and necessary in children and adults alike. Martial arts, synchronized swimming and golf spring to mind, and certainly circling as a discipline as outlined in the paper. Sports like Tennis as well, so long as the competitive element is viewed as an instrument of self-improvement and learning, rather than self-glorification. But rugby, boxing, WWWF are clear no-no’s, and we have to find a way to gently ease them out of existence. At the risk of being provocative, I would go as far as to question there are any transcendent possibilities in sporting institutions like Formula 1, NBA, NFL, MLB, Premier Leagues etc. and would be keen to have my viewpoints challenged!

The new sporting paradigm has to be shift from ‘best in the world’ to ‘best for the world’, and hence excellence itself ought to take on more of a normative and functionalist significance, rather than a demonstrative one.

In summary, my own conclusion is that sport, pretty much like our socio-economics and our politics, is constrained by LR and LL structures, and no amount of UL/ UR work can really hack it, unless the social agreements change. There was a time in our history when sport has played important roles at a collective level (such as raising the cultural self-esteem of blacks), but much of that utility has now been outlived. 

Parents in Sports is an admirable initiative, and raises the rather larger vexing question – how about ‘Parents for children’ including sports, education and psychosocial development? I doodled on this sometime ago, though that is a bit off-topic, but on the lines of a more participative upbringing process for the new generation:


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A few personal comments, since I've  yet to read this article. Competition per se is not at any level, nor did it originate from any level. It's one of those fields upon which we can project whatever values we have. I've been involved in sports my entire life, from basketball, football, baseball, martial arts and now dance sport (and art). From the earliest age I was inculcated with 'sportmanship,' that one treat their opponents with respect and honor, for competing with them instills a drive to exceed one's own limitations and pushes one to the next level of expertise. We are grateful to our opponents for this opportunity and after each game it is traditional to shake hands to express this gratitude, or pat them on the butt, etc. "Good game" and so on.

Even 'violent' sports like football and martial arts have evolved from contests where one's intent was to harm or kill to one with strict rules and fouls to prevent injury. Granted even within the rules injuries happen, but they also happen when one pushes past their physical limits in dance or running. Meanwhile martial arts also provides practical training for when one encounters a red asshole that wants to knife you and steal your money, so that one can use the appropriate amount of force to protect themselves and others, up to an including deadly force if necessary. And within the law, that thing that elevates beyond the jungle, itself a continual evolution.

So no, sport or competition in itself is not some lower lifeform. It too can express our highest ideals and values and make us better people. So I'll have to read the article to see how they translate it so.

This paper and the one following in our list are both outside my zones of competence and familiarity, so I do not feel I have much to offer here.  Academically, "The Conception of Integral Sports" was not very strong, but I appreciated the authors' transparent chronicling of their journey in the development and launching of their integrally informed sports programs.  I thought their use of Sean's Integral Enactment Theory as a guiding framework for their discussion was also a nice touch (I like to see Sean's work getting traction with others).

Viewing sport as a multiple object seemed especially useful and generative for the project, both for strategically interfacing with the dominant sports cultures and (in acknowledging this multiplicity) for justifying a reconceptualization of sport at a fundamental level (calling the focus on competition into question, for instance).  The authors mention encountering resistance in various forms to their efforts to introduce an integral paradigm, especially from dominant Orange- and Green-centered organizations, but few examples were given (which I think would have been helpful to include).

Overall, and responding also to both Neelesh's and theurj's comments, I am encouraged to see the integral model being explored in this context -- since it is especially here, in the realm of "practices of the Self," that AQAL has a lot to offer.  I agree with Neelesh that popular sports culture, in many quarters, leaves much to be desired, but also share theurj's (and the authors') view that there is ample opportunity in this field for the cultivation of an integral range of prosocial values, personal capacities, and (institution-level) generative (en)closures.

With Sloterdijk's You Must Change Your Life and The Art of Philosophy, which propose to lift the concept of positive self-transformative practice out of its long obscurity in modern philosophic discourse (see here), I am hopeful that efforts of this sort will eventually find more of a ready home in our culture.  The ILP book offers a good individual template, but the focus and design of the text (which encourages finding ways to "fit" modules into one's existing routine), seems to make too many accommodations to the status quo, possibly encouraging approaching the modules as a means of further adapting to and excelling within the bounds of the current system; whereas I think the concept that we must profoundly "change our life" (as Sloterdijk, Levin, Michaelson, and others stress) will likely call for some decisive breaks with culture -- taking a more radical stand in the face of widespread systemic myopia and dysfunction, building new generative (en)closures to cultivate and support homo integrus

I refuse to read this paper! Not because of the topic -- but rather because I am sick to death of "integral papers". Bring on the dancing girls!

Really, I am always narcissistically surprised that people still watch SPORTS.

Didn't they all stop when I did? At 10 years old? Ah, I remember it well! Ron Hextall's rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers. An epic cycle. Goalies scoring. Severed necks on the ice. Flyers vs. Gretzky for Lord Stanley's Cup. I bet on the game with my dad. We had to watch it down the road at old Brady's house... because that one-eyed old bastard had the nearest satellite TV.

Good stuff.

Although I have no interest in sports I am still a big fan of them in principle. Like the military, patriotism, etc. I enjoy the general mood. Our neo-tantric sensibility must harvest these archaic vitalities. My child-self recollects it well and my adult-brain approves it from a distance.

No higher layer of complexity can operate stably unless it can "capture" the energies and instabilities which are coded into the various solutions which the lower layers offer. That means we need a place for them. The one glaring error in David C. Korten's recent writinsg on the need to protect the economy by criminalizing Wall Street (hear! hear!) is his rather stupid feeling that we can simply switch from a psychopath-run system to a non-psychopath system. We're still going to have a lot of psychopaths! What is our plan for them? How can we put them to work in the service of a new vision?

Likewise, what is our plan for international military engagements? How do we situate patriotism? What do we do with the "red meme" tribalism which naturally wants to get together in male gangs, travel to distant locations and attack each other on open fields?

A totally normal and natural urge which is beautiful integrated into Blue and Orange society by its transformation into "sporting events". This should be a bold sign to all evolutionary thinkers about the kinds of creative moves necessary to re-incorporate the energies and instincts bound into lower structures.

That said, again, I have not and will not read this paper!

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