Spirituality may refer to almost any kind of meaningful activity, especially a “search for the sacred.” – Wikipedia
There are numerous definitions for spirituality. This Wikipedia definition is probably the broadest, and the easiest to relate to table tennis. Playing table tennis is a meaningful activity, although not a religious one. The idea of a sport being a spiritual activity might seem a little far fetched, but perhaps not, if you are of the mind that every activity can be sacred. A sacred activity is one in which an individual feels connected with God. Atheists can also experience these times, even if they don’t attribute them to a higher power.
Table tennis is physically demanding. It is mentally demanding. But without a spiritual element it can be robotic, repetitive, and meaningless. I know that I tend to routinely refer to mind, body, and spirit, as if they were completely separate from each other. There is actually far more overlap than we typically think. Physical exhaustion can produce hallucinations. Disturbing thoughts can cause physical reactions. Dreams can be perceived as spiritual messages. We’ve always known that table tennis was good for the brain and body. Only recently have I seen some references to a spiritual connection.
I don’t mean for this to be purely philosophical, or try to demonstrate table tennis as a metaphor for life. Instead, consider the places where table tennis clearly becomes a spiritual activity. For those of us who are closest to our sport, we can fail to recognize the beauty of this, simply because we see it so often. The connection between two people across a table creates an experience that has become increasingly rare in an age of computers. If you see table tennis as art, and the player as an artist; it’s impossible not to acknowledge the spiritual. There are moments of passionate exhilaration, and times of depression. Players approach the game in different ways. Some have a spirit of aggression, some of caution, relaxation, fear, patience, joy, or determination. It would be tempting at this point, to encourage players to be spiritually prepared for the next tournament, and work on having a spirit of confidence for maximizing their chances for table tennis success.
But, success in table tennis can’t be the driving factor for spiritual improvement. The nature of the spiritual is that it can not be bottled and used for our own goals. It’s unlikely that we can be patient and focused in a match if we don’t have the spirit of patience in our everyday life. Physical and mental training are essential to improvement in any sport. Adversity prepares us spiritually. Some athletes transcend sports, not because of their athletic ability, but because of the spirit of their lives.
In memory of Thomas Nunes