THE ZEN OF ARSENAL
I want to talk about delusion. Delusion is a word with a variety of connotations. Some people would visualize a crazy looking person walking down the street with a funny walk and mumbling to themselves as delusional. Can supposedly normal people be delusional as well?
Delusion is defined in Wikipedia as a fixed belief that is either false, fanciful, or derived from deception. So yes, normal people can be delusional, and we see examples of that delusion all the time in our everyday lives.
How often have you been mad about something over which you had absolutely no control, simply because it differed from your expectations? That is delusion. We want the world to behave in a certain fixed way. And when it doesn’t we get mad. But why do we get mad? We have no control over the event and yet we get mad. At whom are we mad? That is delusion. It is a fact of life. We all engage in delusion. We’ve all explained away situations in our lives by creating a narrative within our minds to fit the way we want to see the situation. That actually sounds like something we all do, all the time, to varying degrees. That is delusion.
Eastern Philosophies would define delusion as “being unable to see reality for what it is”. Delusion is at the heart of Eastern Philosophies. Yoga is the science of seeing things as they really are. Buddhism is the science of freeing the mind to experience true reality. Taoism is the science of bringing balance to our reality.
All those concepts imply a cessation of delusion. In order to experience any true reality a complete and utter absence of delusion must be present. Imagine that? It means that to achieve enlightenment, one must be engaged with reality and nothing else. No more worries about the past, or daydreams about the future (or some altered perceptions of past, present and future scenarios). No getting emotional about things over which you have no control, such as football matches. No more stress. No more ego. Just present completely in whatever reality you are at that time. This would be a state of pure and absolute bliss and contentment. I always liked that word, contentment. It implies just being happy with everything that is going on in your life. Wouldn’t that be nice?
So what do reality and delusion really look like?
Well, folks, this is what reality looks like at the moment for Arsenal Football Club….
We have a club that is about to finish 3rd in the League and we made the CL Quarterfinals. That is reality. It is a young squad. There are some very talented players, considered to be among the best in the world at their positions. There are obvious weaknesses still in the squad. That is reality.
When you set expectations about the success or failure of any season then that is beginning of delusion. The team will finish where they will finish, forget about it. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy or agonize over every moment of the season. Quite the opposite. It means you are truly present throughout everything, experiencing the experience, not biased by perceptions of the past or future, able to actually experience the reality of the moment, in all its glory as well as all its agony. What is there to be mad about except the failure of reality to conform to your view of how the world should be? That is delusion.
We are, suddenly, one of the richest football clubs in the world. That never would have been possible at Highbury. The new stadium took a lot of money and caused a lot of heartache but it looks like it will be worth it in the end. Money should not be a problem for Arsenal for many years. That is the reality of our club right now.
When you wish we’d spent the money on players or gone further into debt in order to keep winning trophies and bring joy to the fans, then that is the beginning of delusion. It didn’t happen, forget about it. Live in the present and not in the past. To live in the past is delusion.
We have a Board of Directors that have always focused on the long-term health of the club and left the day to day management of football-related activity up to those who know what they are doing. They believe AW is the best man for the job. The Board are trying to ensure that whoever takes over the club long-term, that they take the same view. They can be stuffy and borish, but they all bleed Arsenal, even the ones who leave. That is the reality.
When you start having expectations of how the Board should handle things then that is the beginning of delusion. They are as they are and believe what they believe, forget about it. Acknowledge that everyone is different and does things differently. Anything else is delusion.
We have 100million in our bank account right now. That is before we even take into account the 23million AW still has from Ade/Toure. We made 30million in profits last year and will probably make more next year because of property deals finishing. That is reality.
The club will spend, or invest, that money in the way they see fit. The manager will spend it on whom he sees fit. That is reality.
Expecting, or even worse demanding (Demanding? To whom?), that the clubs money should be spent in a certain way is the beginning of delusion. Being disappointed at how the summer sales turned out have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with your own delusional expectations. The depth of your disappointment would reveal the depth of your delusion.
Things don’t happen how we expect them to and we get angry about it. That is delusion. That is suffering.
We all do it, to some extent. But isn’t a momentary “oh darn, I wish that could have been different” a completely different level of delusion than being angry for weeks or months or even years after the event? It is the depth of our reaction that reveals the depth of our delusion.
Next time you feel yourself getting angry at something, really sit back and ask yourself, “What am I angry at? Who am I angry at? Why am I angry?”. Sometimes the answers to those questions can be illuminating. That would be the first step on the road to enlightenment. It’s a long road.
May you enjoy your journey. See you in Nirvana. And up the Arsenal.