There is a theory that a human being is an angel trapped in the body of an animal. According to this view, we achieve spiritual evolution through encouraging the angel and taming the beast. It is an appealing notion.
I can see our angels spreading their wings when we heal the sick, feed the poor, defend the wrongly accused or share whatever enlightenment we are able to find through the arts and religion. I can see the beast being tamed through scientific research designed to make the world healthier, greener and safer.
I used to include sports in this category, but now I am not so sure.
I used to see skill, grace, courage — even nobility — in sports, and I still do — sometimes. But increasingly, sports are becoming perverted to appeal to the animal in us. There is nothing angelic about putting two behemoths in a cage and staging an “ultimate fight,” or driving a poor race horse so hard that its legs snap like twigs, or pounding each other into bloody submission with our fists and pretending that’s “boxing” (or “hockey”).
And there is nothing noble about using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs that sacrifice our bodies to an obsession with winning.
The beast lurks in each of us, and by engaging in activities that degrade us or by watching entertainment that incites our blood lust, we risk releasing its ferocity. Eventually, our angel might give up and fly away.