Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 18, No 1 (2005)

Under Sail Alone at Sea: A Study of Sport as Spiritual Practice

Richard Hutch
Issued Date: 10 Mar 2007


What makes sport spiritual practice? How is sport a means of spiritual insight and character formation? A cue is taken from ethicist and moralist, Hans Jonas, who links together the nature of modern technology and its implications for future generations. In this study, elements of sport as spiritual practice are identified and illustrated by yachting people who venture on long, offshore passages alone, including ‘solo’ circumnavigators of the globe. Personal accounts of their voyages of self-discovery are analysed. The argument is that although a person may be self-reliant technically at sea or elsewhere engaging in their sport, there are limits to such extensions of human will. Once those limits are reached in any lone sport, then a person’s lived relationship to the world may undergo basic change. One can then ask: How is technical failure paradoxically moral success, a result of spiritual insight? A phenomenology of sport as spiritual practice is presented (sport as technical finesse, cosmic quest, personal test). The insight to which such practice leads is called moral presence, or an inner realisation about the importance of the moment and limiting action to be taken amid uncontrollable events. Such a realisation contributes to the formation of human character and marks an exercise of wisdom in life.

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DOI: 10.1558/arsr.2005.18.1.3


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