Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 18

Undertaking such a huge year-long project is quite a challenge. I'm still wildly enthusiastic and this month has been really great for me so far, but I have been balancing my time between this project, my other blog, work, marriage, US Immigration, banking and exchange rate fiascoes, a certain brown dog and now, The World Cup. It sometimes gets a little daunting. While I write every day, I might not get to edit or publish every day. Don't worry though. We're still trucking along here. 

I've been staying up late and waking up early for these matches and have found myself dozing during my downtime rather than writing. Living in Korea with the games in South Africa is pretty awful. The time difference is minus eight hours, so the games are either at 830pm, 11pm or 330am. Next week, I'll have to watch the Korea game at 330am and the US game at 11pm with work in the middle. That's going to be a long day. 

So why do I do it?

After all, I have never been a soccer fan, nor have I ever been good at it. I played soccer when I was a kid, but that was at the age when it was more "herd ball". You know, all the kids have a go at the ball; kicking and running in all directions. I think I even managed to stay out of that aspect though and got the sweet gig in the goal. I'm not sure, but the image I have of my childhood soccer days is of me doing headstands and tying white clovers together in the shape of a crown. In short, soccer never did it for me. 

Throughout my college experience, I had a lot of friends who played the game. In fact, most of my friends did. And in all that time, we never once discussed it. I watched the 2006 World Cup a little, but never really cared. Even last year I remember watching a game with an English friend of mine at my place. Every time one team had a runaway moment with the ball, I would taunt, "Oh, what's going to happen?!" and then when no goal was scored (like usual), I would say, "Oh, soccer happened!" I didn't really think much about it at the time, but that friend slowly stopped calling me and it wasn't until recently that I learned why. 

He was tired of my blatant disrespect and mocking of a sport so important to him. I guess it sounds childish to stop calling someone for such a reason, but for him, soccer is a pretty big deal and my relentless assault on the sport was simply too much for him. He realized that I knew nothing of the sport and still chose to knock it. It reminds me of my time during the Catholic month. One of the teachers I work with would constantly make statements about the Bible and Catholicism that were absurdly ill-informed and yet he would do it with a certain amount of authority that some people might think that he was knowledgeable. His blind contempt and never-ending disparagement of the religion angered me deeply and I also wished to sever our relationship. People often confuse strong opinion with intelligence. 

Both situations, however, are not unrelated. Just like with the teacher and Catholicism, I held a simplistic and misinformed perception of soccer. Because of my ignorance of the sport, I created my own reality of the sport that fit into my preconceived notions and opinions. By espousing such views, I offended people not simply because I disagreed with them, but because they knew my opinion was formed from fiction rather than fact. 

Now, after taking some time to get to know the sport and share in its excitement, I understand their frustration. The teams that I always support are 1) USA and 2) Korea. Before living abroad, I never really cared about cheering for USA and obviously Korea is a result of my time here and the fact that my wife is Korean. Now, I have a team to identify with and that identification is what allowed me to reevaluate my position and opinion of the sport. Some people refuse to do so, though. A high school acquaintance of mine wrote this about the World Cup on his Facebook profile.
the super bowl pisses on the world cup. i'll take the titans over 11 foreigners any day of the week.
What the hell does that even mean? So, he likes American football more and he believes that the NFL's Tennessee Titans would be more fun to watch than "11 foreigners" or they would beat them in some capacity? Something tells me that this guy has never been a "foreigner' before. If he had, he wouldn't use the word so callously. He's entitled to his opinion, but I get the feeling he is using the World Cup as an excuse to justify his own misconceptions of the sport (or his own superiority complex). 

Religion works the same way. Before undertaking this project, I had wildly misinformed ideas of religions. It wasn't until I tried to experience some of them that I realized how wrong I had been. Without experiencing them, I would remain critical. It took experience for me to be able to identify with them. I now see the wonder and beauty of Buddhism, Catholicism and Quakerism, but it took first-hand exposure first. 

What could Americans learn from the World Cup?  Simple. It's the same that all religions could learn from Quakers. 

There's more than one opinion out there and no matter how much we want to believe it, American opinion really doesn't matter to others. If we want to be taken seriously, we need to do a better job of experiencing the rest of the world and practicing tolerance rather than lambasting what we don't know. Being a willfully blind and arrogant person isn't something we should strive for. 


  1. George , this was an amazing post. You had always been so opinionated and not always in the most "friendly" manner so this reveals to me a recognition of that fact. Great news!! I am with you on this idea of tolerance all the way!

  2. Words of wisdom for sure. I am learning myself, I think, to be less opinionated and "preachy." Also less condescending to others who have different views. I think this "wisdom" can come with age or with an open mindedness and equanimity that you are clearly developing. It pains me when older people (60+) are increasingly entrenched in their world view. I have met several such folks in the last few years. Very sad!