Outdoor Sports in Relation to Finding God and Perspective in the Universe
The University of Scranton course, “Parables in Pop Culture”, examines sources of popular culture in order to find meaning and ultimately metanoia. Metanoia means a transformative change of heart and sources of it are often hidden in metaphorical stories or parables (Crossan, 2012). So, one may ask how transformation or metanoia occurs and how parables help ignite this phenomenon. “Parables of Pop Culture” demonstrates that transformation occurs through metaphorical stories within our societies and by the beauty of the experience within them. Furthermore, this class has demonstrated that individuals have memories, backgrounds and experiences that shape who one is, and through the parable of one’s life, they can find metanoia.
Outdoor sports include leisure activities that are enjoyed in the outdoors such as backpacking, canoeing, hiking, skiing, cycling as well as outdoor team sports. For the purpose of this paper, hiking/backpacking will be the main outdoor sports focused on. Many examples in popular culture exist that analyze the connection to God, perspective of the greater universe, and metanoia that occur with this outdoors activity.
The brain also releases all three of these hormones when we exercise. The most beneficial of these three hormones to human joy is serotonin because it is a natural mood enhancer. When one has higher levels of serotonin, lower levels of depression are present (Waren, 2017). The brain also releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which reduces depression and enhances brain health and memory (Waren, 2017). Furthermore, endorphins are released which decrease pain and stress and leave humans with a euphoric, post-exercise high.
Thus, God is thought of as:
"designer of a self-organizing system, as determiner of indeterminacies, as top-down cause, or as communicator of information” (Barbour, 2002). These identities of God can help create an understanding of how one can find God in nature while performing outdoor sports, which can result in experiences of metanoia.
Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds
An example of orienting oneself in a wider framework of meaning and unifying all things is seen in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. In this parable, a man sowed good wheat seeds in a field and overnight, weeds were sowed among the wheat. In the morning, the man’s servants asked who did this and if the owner wanted the weeds removed. The owner stated that an enemy planted them but to not pull the weeds because that risked also pulling the wheat. Thus, the servants should “let both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 3:26-30, New American Bible Revised Edition). A greater framework of meaning such as seeing more in nature can be found in this parable. Humanity should avoid thinking black and white as good and bad and allow people to grow together and prove themselves. All people have good and bad characteristics and the “wheat” should be nourished in each person.
Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
John 15:5 " I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."
The way the Bible humanizes nature demonstrates the interconnection of nature, the human body and God in a parabolic way.
In Wild, a young woman, Cheryl Strayed, whom never backpacked before, went on a treacherous journey along a massive west coast trail. Cheryl left a troubled life for one of indeterminacy in nature. Cheryl experienced many hardships along the trip and while meditating on a mountain, she wrote, “They were, I now realized, layered and complex, inexplicable and analogous to nothing. Each time I reached the place that I thought was the top…there was still more up to go…I was entirely in new terrain” (Strayed, 2012). This describes how the indeterminacy of nature and God’s predetermined way of teaching moral lessons allows the narrator to find a new perspective and even metanoia in life. The New York Times mentions, “how [Cheryl’s] actions and… internal struggles intertwine and… appreciate the lessons [Cheryl] finds embedded in the natural world” (Shapiro, 2012). The parabolic natural world around her allowed her to find the wider framework of meaning in her life.
Fiddes (2013) describes the lessons to be learned through the world’s indeterminacy by saying “objects of attention and love are open to an infinity of perspectives, allowing for ceaseless supplementation, expansion of meaning and re-composition”. Humans have the innate ability to establish different perspectives on similar situations in the uncertain world because God allows it. Through exercising outdoors, humans physiologically and psychologically clear the mind of other burdens and are able to find new perspective and even God in an unpredictable world leaving us to experience metanoia.
This is also exactly what Cheryl Strayed did in Wild. Cheryl desired to disassociate from a past of drug addiction and family issues and through immersion into the wider context of nature, more meaning and order was found in her life. Thus, the best way to become involved in a wider context is to submit oneself into nature while doing outdoor sports and experience the parabolic power it can have on one’s perspective, which in turn leads to metanoia.
Paul Stutzman found this to be the case in the book, Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail. After losing his wife to breast cancer, Paul quit his job and went on a five-month journey along the Appalachian Trail. Paul says that immersing himself in nature helped him recover from a devastating loss and that somewhere along the journey he realized God was with him every step of the way, allowing him to find his path to peace and freedom (Stutzman, 2010). Paul physically sought out God throughout the five-month journey he embarked on. The action of outdoor sport that took place is important because perception is thought to be more than passive perception of information, but rather “an action oriented restructuring of the world” (Barbour, 2002). Through Paul’s action of hiking the Appalachian Trail, he found great perspective and metanoia in his situation after he communicated with God.
Tour de Scranton is a bike ride or river walk that occurred on April 29, 2018. It benefits Erin's fund which is a drug and alcohol treatment fund. It helps people live their lives and conquer their dreams while battling addiction through treatment. This outdoor sporting event/charity event is a great way to find a greater purpose in life while experiencing the outdoors.