Today I attended a women’s soccer game at the local college. I only stayed for approximately twenty or thirty minutes. My short stay didn’t transpire because the game wasn’t enjoyable, it was because I began to feel nauseous (in the Sartrean sense). The sensation eased in mildly, almost imperceptibly, and commenced with the thought of someone close to me playing the same sport in a similar setting and a similar uniform, although in a different decade.
I began wondering what it would have been like to watch her play and I started daydreaming about doing so (…s’hot, s’athletic lol). That brought on a deluge of absurd reasons why the game would have been more fun to watch had she been playing in it (I also would have given her a big hug and tried to put a smile on her face after the game no matter whether she won or lost). As my mind wandered to fictitious and entertaining scenarios, the entire setting became like a hologram of sorts (not sensationally in the literal sense) that could have been interchangeable in innumerable eras and locales around the world. The time, location, sport, teams, players, refs, crowd, weather etc. could have all been singularly or wholly replaced, but fundamentally the occasion would have largely remained “the same”. The transparency of it all allowed my mind to jump to everything from sociology to quantum field theory and everything in between.
The social reasons for participation in athletics, e.g., camaraderie, health, enjoyment, community, familial expectations, school spirit, social status, and reproductive potential (and more) came to light first. These young women had spent countless hours over the course of many years in order to compete and to maintain their ability to compete (the same is true for all athletes I suppose). They had simultaneously juggled their education, health, relationships, and other goals in the process (and avoided death from all angles no less). Each of them had their own unique combination of reasons and/or rationale for pursuing this sport, and each of their journeys had culminated (at least for today) in the game that I was watching. The social reasons for spending so many hours training to chase a ball, control it, and kick it into a net were odd enough, but as I began to dig deeper, my urge to leave became palpable.
My own perception of this individual game, what brought me there, reminiscing about the countless hours I had spent for the opportunity to compete in similar venues myself, the cliche commentary and prideful smiles of parents in the stands, the intensity of emotion in certain players and lack thereof in the benchwarmers, the referees who were wrong 50% of the time and wrong the other 50%, the lackluster student section, nature carrying on and nearly oblivious to all of it…it all began to feel nauseating…utterly absurd. The strange feeling began to increase when I was struck with the notion that certain chapters in our lives are short-lived, have a limited cast of characters, and we can only experience them by memory, word of mouth, or recorded media. The nausea worsened as the sinking sensation of the inevitable failure of memory, the convolution of details, and the blur this day would become, for myself and anyone else less than a century from now, began to suffocate me. Other than photographs, a stat sheet, or a video, it would be as if the whole thing never happened…as if none of us existed that day.
It intensified when all human beings in my conscious field began to merge with their usual “separateness” from all other matter. All human beings’ bones, blood, internal organs, muscles, sinews, hair, skin, voices etc. and all their functions and movements became enmeshed in time and space as if they were comprised of the same molecules as the sky, the breeze, the sunshine, the trees in the background, the netting of the goals, or the turf itself. The entire scene became a living, breathing, entity of its own (and no, I was not experiencing synesthesia). The only sense of separateness that remained was my own; viewing the scene as something outside of myself…which quickly dissolved as I realized that all others at that setting viewed me as something external (unless someone was having a similar experience at that exact moment…or maybe some people always view life through that lens…I don’t know but, part of me envies them if so).
Does matter exist if “we” do not? Could we “exist” if matter did not? Are they codependent? What does separate “us” from the rest of matter (or, are we separate whatsoever?)? Our thoughts and dreams (supposedly complex electrical and neurochemical activity in our brains)? Is it cognitive biases centered on treating those similar to our own organic makeup as something “special” or unique? Is it consciousness (higher? debatable at times…more complex, maybe)? Is it our social connections and networks that make human beings feel distinct from all other life and matter? Or is it purely a matter of subjective perspective that cannot be sidestepped, transgressed, or bypassed entirely?
I began to ponder all of this, and my nausea began to build to a crescendo. Like an anvil dropped from the clouds, it then seemingly hit me all at once…I was suddenly reminded of quantum field theory and the notion that everything really is “one and the same”. I too was a part of that living, breathing, entity…in a way I was that entity, and indeed the entire human race, globe, planets, sun, solar system, galaxy, and universe were as well. “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” The separateness we experience from and with others, all other lifeforms, and all forms of matter (or lack thereof), including the separation between our inner and outer worlds…is purely an illusion (or at least that’s how it seems…but how would anyone truly know with our limited sensory bandwidth, inclusive of our tools/apparatus to enhance them?).
Anyway, my mind had started down a path of loving daydreams, became sidetracked in a thicket of social constructs, utterly lost in the ineffable scope and scale of the universe, and came full circle…back to the love that my mind inevitably returns to. At that point, I could no longer focus, and woozily walked out of the stadium in the middle of the contest amidst the molecular blur of inorganic matter and humanity. Human, all too human…and I had to leave. I drove out of the parking lot surrendering to yet another day without her. As I regained my bearings, I couldn’t help but smile about the look on her face in the passenger seat had I tried to explain to her what I had just experienced (likely a sideways glance and a mix of surprise and disbelief lol…I can see it now). Maybe some day I’ll be able to tell her in person…fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.