Volleyball and a Solstice Epiphany

By Tooker Gomberg, Montreal, Canada.

Let volleyball be a lesson in peace.

Rejoice! This Sunday, darkness will slowly give way to light. Saturday, the winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year, and a good time to celebrate that this part of the Earth is tilting towards the sun. The days will be getting longer and brighter.

That’s noteworthy. Another thing I note at this time of year is all the hype about peace and goodwill. It gets me thinking: what do peace and goodwill look like? What comes to mind is – volleyball!

On and off for over fifteen years I have played with a group of friends in Montreal. The ever changing group plays volleyball outdoors in the shadow of Mount Royal, and during winter the game continues indoors. People from over 100 different countries have played. Blacks and whites, anglos and francos, Vietnamese, Jews, and Arabs all play together. Women and men, short, fat, and lanky all get to touch the ball. Teenagers, a few seventy year olds, and all ages in between have shared in the fun. On a good Sunday eight courts are alive with play.

Sure there have been occasional arguments. And sometimes it gets quite macho. But it’s almost always peaceful. It’s surprising how peaceful and enjoyable playing together can be.

A while back the players on our court stopped keeping track of the score. Then an epiphany occurred: we realized that the true joy of volleyball was in the volley rather than the racking up of points.

Later some players began going for the balls that were heading out of bounds. Keeping those balls in the air increased everyone’s pleasure.

The longer the volley, the more ecstatic the group becomes. Everyone touches it, and shares the fun of co-operation. Once in a while there are sheer magic moments when the ball soars over the net thirty or more times. Joy to the players.

Lately, with my friend Bob Silverman, and my companion Angela Bischoff, we have developed a full court rotation whereby players on both sides of the net are on one and the same team. Everyone gets to play with everyone else.

It harkens back to the original game invented by Canadian – born William Morgan 101 years ago. It was supposed to be a game for “the unfit and the fit” that was universally accessible, easy to play, and required very simple equipment.

Since that time the goal of many sports has been distorted to glorify and attract only the strongest or the fastest players. What about the others, the vast majority, who get left out?

Playing no-point volleyball is a profound lesson in the joy of cooperation over the dominant training of competition. It shows that it can be easy to transform a situation of winners and losers into a pleasurable experience where everyone can win and enjoy themselves.

Volley-Bob’s words say it best:
“Let’s put the ball in the air and while it whirls regard it with love and care, not the creed of personal gain nor competition’s ceaseless pain, but the ideology of the other, where every player is sister and brother.”

True for volleyball, and true for our unique, whirling orb in space. By sharing and playing together we move closer towards peace and goodwill. It has been said that there is no way to peace – peace is the way. Co-operative volleyball is a hint of the direction. Amen.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece about the plutonium that fell from the sky aboard the Russian probe to Mars. Incredibly the mainstream press has virtually ignored this awesomely frightening story. Here is an update: The probe did not, apparently, crash harmlessly in the ocean, as we were previously told. It probably landed in southwestern Bolivia or northern Chile, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Hundreds of army personnel are now searching the area trying to recover the cannisters which hopefully contained the 9 1/2 ounces of plutonium, the most carcinogenic substance in the universe. Stay tuned…

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