There are few times the world quiets itself to notice something collectively. Certain events call for our attention, despite whatever else may be transpiring around us. We’re largely at war with each other, caught in the middle of a worldwide crisis that has taken innocent lives and brought ruin to people simply based on their geographical location. It’s not often that we take the time as separate nations to remember we’re all human beings, living in a shared world and fighting the same battles—both with each other and ourselves.
Though I’m not particularly a sports fan, I’ve been curious as to why the World Cup excites me. I’ve only seen a couple of games, usually while playing darts at a local bar, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you which teams are playing (Spain’s good, right?). It’s not the actual World Cup in itself that gives me a rush or moves me a bit, but rather the concept behind it.
I’ve always felt this way about the Olympics. When else do you see countries who are politically hostile and at war with each other standing side-by-side without much indication of conflict? Similarly, how many other times do we, as a world, share an interest so deeply? The World Cup is the same type of event that allows us to set aside our political issues with one another and take hold of something rather trivial instead, focusing our energies on fandom and support instead of contention and protest.
We’re caught in a very worrisome struggle with one another, and even from a distance it’s easy to allow the wars we’re fighting to become personal, robbing us of our peace of mind and contentedness in the world. As a child, I wrote countless journal entries about how anxious I was that America would be targeted and attacked—it was a very significant worry of mine, and that tension within myself has remained on a benign level. As an adult living in a country that hasn’t been war-torn, it’s easy to let the conflicts of the world become white noise. Most times, they’re sitting in the background and never causing too much of a stir, which I mention to acknowledge that though my fears haven’t be realized, others have experienced them intensely. Even so, I feel a dreaded knot in my stomach every time I read an article about Syria or Iraq. It’s a gnawing feeling that makes me realize that there is honest hatred in some hearts, and that those people have powerful means to destroy those around them.
I don’t enjoy the anxiety I feel for the state of the world, but I do have the power to stay positive and mindful in the midst of it. I have the conscious option to choose happiness and togetherness over dread and contention. Though warlords and tyrants will remain with us, I can personally take time to view others as equals, and treat them with justice and grace.
That is why events such as the World Cup represent more than an athletic competition. The World Cup represents a peaceful camaraderie that can be achieved by two opposed sides. It enables us to remember that we share the common bond of humanity with one another—a bond that is fueled by engaging entertainment and brief escapism from the every day. Watching these soccer games reminds me that as I struggle to embrace the hardships of the people both near and far from me, I can also watch a man in a stadium across the ocean smiling about the same victory a woman in the chair next to me is ecstatic about.
The sense of peace I feel for our ability to come together amidst such bleak times in our world’s history overwhelms me. I know these games will end and we’ll go back to petty and political stances against one another, but for now I’m enjoying being together with the world in something. The human race deserves a break from time-to-time. I’m thankful that we can take that break together, as if we’re no longer strangers at odds, but just a group of people who happen to be doing the same thing at 7 PM on a Tuesday night.