Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda
news of our historic UU church in Ruthven (Kingsville), Ontario

Warming it Up

November 27th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time for All Ages – Off the Scales

Ever wonder what the deal is with temperature scales like Fahrenheit and Celsius?

This video – and its companion – offer surprising insights on the stories of Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and Anders Celsius:

What the Fahrenheit?
Veritasium

And you can watch the companion video here:
Celsius Made His Thermometer Upside Down
Veritasium

Sermon – Warming it Up – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read: [Printable PDF available for download]

I’ll start today with a bit of a historical anecdote.  It turns out that today is the birthday of Anders Celsius (who was born in 1701) – you’ll likely recognize that last-name, as he is often credited with creating the Celsius scale, which most of us use these days to figure out how to dress up before heading outdoors.

But the story is a bit more complicated – and interesting – than that… for one thing, some among us might use the Fahrenheit scale instead when figuring out our outdoor attire, and so do most of our neighbours across the border.  When the subject comes up, you may hear some heated debates ensue – hopefully friendly ones – around the merits and pitfalls of each scale, and by extension, about the use of the metric system and the few places that resist using it.

But I’m going to skip that debate today, because I’m more inspired by the stories of the people who are associated with those temperature scales.

One of the first tidbits that I find surprising is that Anders Celsius never used what we now call the Celsius scale.  He did create and use a similar scale, with the same size of degrees – but did you know it was upside down?  With water freezing at a hundred degrees, and boiling at zero?

Dr. Derek Muller explains that he used this as a way to avoid having negative readings, which might aid in record-keeping.  It was one of his successors at the University of Upsala that eventually flipped the scale – possibly Carl Linnaeus.  Furthermore, a different scientist called Jean-Pierre Christin also created a scale with zero as the freezing point of water, and 100 as the boiling point.  So, the C in the thermometer could stand for Carl Linnaeus, or Jean-Pierre Christin, or Centigrade.  Eventually a community of scientists decided to name the scale after Celsius, but you could argue that the C actually stands for the Community of scientists who worked on making temperature measurements useful.

And, while many of us who are used to metric units might sometimes look disdainfully at the Fahrenheit scale, we would do well to recognize the contributions that Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit made to the community of instrument-making, and particularly to thermometer standardization.  He promoted the use of mercury, and his thermometers were among the first to be consistent with each other, which was rare at his time.  Even those of us who prefer Celsius have gained from the knowledge and techniques developed by Fahrenheit, and we now have the comfort of getting accurate readings when we want to know how to prepare when heading outside – regardless of what scale we might use!

And, I get the sense that a lot of us have been looking at these scales on the thermometer quite a bit lately!  Whether it’s a matter of checking to see if our body temperatures are at a healthy range, or trying to figure out how the shifting November weather affects our daily plans, these scales give an element of certainty as we face a meandering trend toward colder days for the next few months.

And it’s not just cold… although the longest nights that come with the winter solstice are still a few months away, we can already feel the shorter days upon us… dinner time feels like night time, and with recent cold snaps and snowfalls, November has indeed felt like November lately.

And while the holiday time that includes Christmas is still some weeks away, many among us begin a time of expectation, with anticipation for celebration.  The lighting of an advent wreath is one way that we can mark this time, and turn our attention toward what kind of warmth we may find in this cooling season.

Recently, the newspaper The Guardian had an article with some suggestions to try out, which might help bring some cheer as winter draws near. These range from listening to some favourite music you haven’t heard in a while, to trying out a new food, to taking a mindful moment to take a pause and appreciate your surroundings.

Out of the 53 suggestions in that particular article in The Guardian, many are probably not for everyone, but what I noticed about them is that they include a combination of going back to tradition and seeking novelty.  That is, finding comfort in older practices we may have let fall by the wayside, or looking for some excitement in things we may have forgotten could be options.  Any of these can be a call toward mindfulness, so that we may make something more of this moment.  A call toward mindfulness that may help us warm up, as we face the cooling days.

And intentionally seeking that warmth, for ourselves and others, is imperative during a season like this.  Many of our holiday rituals are about offering warmth through what can be a harsh season.  Be it bringing in a bit of evergreen nature from the outdoors to the indoors, making warm drinks that may also bring warm memories, or telling familiar stories that warm the heart, be they stories that have been told for centuries (like the Christmas story), or stories that simply remind us of last year, or that reunion where that funny thing happened, some years back.

For those of us who are fortunate to have a reliable home, it may also be a time to… get comfortable with the idea of staying indoors more than usual.  Of course, over the past two years or so, staying indoors became an emerging norm that came upon us with tremendous force – and was largely involuntary.  But lately, the outdoors has become much more accessible to many of us this past year, and staying indoors may feel like more of a choice again.

Over the next month or so, we’ll have an opportunity to exercise that option – we’ll be able to get together on a Saturday – Christmas Eve – for some community warmth on a late December evening… something familiar, and still a bit different than usual.  And on Christmas Day Sunday, we may all stay home and have a chance to hibernate, or hang out with other people we might not get to see all that often, except at this time of year.  And the following Sunday, January 1st, we’ll have an online-only service where we may all stay home while also having some community time online, in which those of you who feel called to it may share of your home, be it by offering a reading or poem, or perhaps some music or some other housewarming or heartwarming offering.

This is also a time to consider how we may warm each others’ experiences – finding the spirit of generosity.  Depending on your circumstances, you may find that you are in a position to offer a sense of warmth to others, by gifts of time, food, company, or money.

Or perhaps you may be finding yourself in a place where you could use some extra warmth.  And it’s worth remembering then that it is OK to reach out, be it to a friend, someone in your family, a community you’ve been part of, or some of the local services that offer support in cases of need.  Help that is offered is only helpful when one is open to receive it.

We are also mindful of the people for whom a home is not a viable option to stay warm.  These may include people whose homes have been destroyed, or the power to keep them warm has been disrupted, as is the case in many Ukrainian places.  It is also true that people who live in our communities – down the street – have housing situations that may also be precarious.

As a community we are collectively able to offer something to warm the homes and the hearts of those around us.  Some of us are in a position to offer support to refugees in many ways.  Here, at Olinda, we also have an established practice – a ritual – of sponsoring a Christmas family, offering some essentials, like clothing, as well as things that may sound like luxuries – toys and other things that bring joy to children and families – but which can indeed be essential to warming the soul.

So, my friends, as advent beckons us to focus onto a holiday season of warmth in the face of cold and darkness, we take it as a call to action – a warm-up – into taking care of ourselves by warming our souls, being able to ask when our souls need warming, and seeking how we may warm the souls and lives of others around us, as we may be able to offer that warmth.

So may it be,
In the warmth of community,
Amen

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing Hymn #226 People, Look East
Words: Eleanor Farjeon, 1881-1965, used by perm. of David Higham Assoc. Ltd.
Music: Traditional French carol, harmony by Martin Shaw, 1875-1958, used by perm. of Oxford University Press
Tune BESANCON

Mike Menefee


Global Handball

November 13th, 2022 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Time for All Ages

How playing sports benefits the body … and your brain – Leah Lagos and Jaspal Ricky Singh | TED-Ed

For an insightful perspective on how we can make sport participation more accessible, promoting healthier mindsets and communities, there is also this video by soccer coach Ruben Jongkind:

Football can change the world, but we need to change football first | Ruben Jongkind | TEDxGeneva

For a retrospective look at Diego Maradona’s “Goal of the Century”, take a look at this video:

Diego Maradona Goal of the Century | Argentina v England | 1986 FIFA World Cup

And, here’s an interesting view of physics in soccer:

Football physics: The “impossible” free kick | Erez Garty | TED-Ed

Sermon – Global Handball – Rev. Rod

Watch:

Read: [Printable PDF document available for download]

Earlier this month, many of us honored our dearly departed during our annual days of the dead commemoration.  One of the ancestors in my family, which holds a place in that honoring, is my maternal grandfather, for whom I hold many memories.

One of my memories when visiting my grandfather was finding him lounging, as he was enthralled by a sport that I had trouble understanding.  Being in Mexico, I was familiar enough with association football – soccer, as it is more commonly known here.  After all, Mexico hosted the 1986 FIFA World Cup when I was a kid – this is the Cup when Argentinian player Diego Maradona scored both the celebrated “Goal of the Century”, as well as the controversial “Hand of God Goal”, which was a goal “guided” by Maradona’s hand, though the referees didn’t see.  And while I wasn’t part of the soccer fandom, it was hard to miss the large crowds that gathered before and after a game, or the fact that there were seemingly endless games on TV, apparently devoted to making me miss the latest episode of The Smurfs.

Even with my tepid interest in soccer football, I understood the intuitive dynamic of the game – you put a ball in the opposing team’s net, without using your hands (unless you were the goalie… or Diego Maradona).  This is also one of the first lessons in English for many Spanish-speakers, as we come to understand that the game’s name, foot-ball is essentially a basic instruction manual on how to play it.

But my grandfather was a much bigger fan of another kind of football, American Football.  And the dynamics of his passion were much more difficult for me to understand.  OK, so people from the US call themselves American, and that’s where the game comes from, that part made sense, but… why football?  The feet only came in contact with the ball a minuscule amount of the active playtime.  By that logic, I once reasoned, soccer could be called “Global Handball” – it’s played all over the world, so it’s global, and goalies touch the ball with their hands every so often, so it could legitimately be called “handball” in the same way that the American version was “football” – or saw I’ve reasoned at some point.

Semantic quibbles aside, my grandfather explained the subtleties of the game to me, and I even came to appreciate the excitement of a 4th-down-and-9 that might turn into a memorable long pass.  Years later, when my Canadian high-school became the national champions in American football, I showed up to the games and participated in the school spirit, even painting my face in blue and white – the school colours.

Now, I don’t know what kind of football you might be into – or if you’re into any sport at all.  But in about a week, a new season for football (or Global Handball) is coming, as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar opens on November 20, and with Canada’s team qualifying for the first time in decades, we might have more neighbours flying flags and cheering as each new game comes along.

Now, I know there are some among you who are big fans of professional sports… and I know that it’s hard to speak of these without sounding divisive – at some point or another!  There are some folks who are really into professional sports, and some who are more mellow about them.  Heck, even among those who are into sports, there are those who are into one particular game and not into another kind of game.  And even among those who are into the same sport, there are split loyalties among all the different teams, not to mention players, coaches, strategies, fantasy leagues, and a whole bunch of dimensions that I won’t pretend to understand.

All this to say, I know this can be a contentious subject, perhaps even more so than religion.  Come think of it… it might be accurate to describe some of the followings of professional sport as reflections of a secular religion.  I remember my years in Montreal, when the Canadiens got to the Stanley Cup playoffs… many people watching the game at the pub, wearing their “holy flannel” Habs scarves, were devotedly clasping their hands, as if in prayer.

Now, rest assured, although I’m not usually in any particular sport fandom, I can appreciate the world of professional sports, and even more so, sports in general.  Over all, I think they are a net positive, and there are many good reasons for that, some of which we may talk about.

There are also… some uncomfortable aspects about the world of professional sports, especially when they are held at the national and global levels.

Already, the current FIFA World Cup, which is being held in Qatar has brought up many questions about the suitability of the host country.  These range from practical issues, such as its dry heat weather, to principled questions about its human rights record.  Indeed, this year’s World Cup, and its host, have had a full quota of controversy.

Of course, controversy is not new to World Cup events, or even to FIFA, as these questions also come up regularly with the Olympics and other major sporting events.  Many of the host countries for worldwide sporting events routinely face questions about their human rights records, their employment practices in construction, the displacement of low-income families and local businesses for construction of venues, or even for the suitability of the local climate.  That’s without even mentioning perennial incidences of corruption and abusive behaviour, be it in specific governments or in sporting organizations.

I could list a whole bunch of places and issues, but each of these can be a long discussion on its own.  Nonetheless, these are important questions to keep in mind.  And let’s not forget that some of this scrutiny may come closer to home in four years’ time, when Canada, the US, and Mexico, all come together to share hosting duties for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

At the same time, international sporting events are touted as promoting the health and wellbeing of the global population.  And there are good reasons to link sports with wellbeing.  Of course, any physical activity, including walking, sit-down exercises, yoga, or dancing, has been extensively documented to measurably improve the health of body and mind.  And team sports, in particular, can offer a place for communal and social interaction, as well as promoting team-building skills and setting norms for working toward a common goal – often quite literally a common goal.

Even purely on their entertainment value, sports and their related events offer a fulfilling passion for billions of people, as some of our church’s members will attest.

Moreover, there is a case to be made that international sporting events promote a sense of international community.  Even with my very mild interest in sporting events, I have to admit that I find opening ceremonies for the Olympics quite fascinating.  As I implied before, there is a certain spiritual, I daresay religious, dimension to these – they are ceremonies after all, with a spirit of celebration.  And the choreography and storytelling that comes with these events, as well as the coming together of many nations, certainly plays a role in reminding viewers from all over the world that… there is a lot to the world, and the people who live in it.

But this comes tied up with the inherent rivalry that comes with a competitive set of sports, especially when the teams are divided by nationality.  When a newly-unified Germany won the 1990 World Cup, I recall some people wondering what a renewed sense of German national pride might mean for global stability (this turned out not to be a major issue, but I heard people raising this question seriously).  Some time after scoring “the Hand of God Goal” against the English team, Argentinian player Diego Maradona implied that his illegal goal had been revenge for the Falklands War with the UK a few years earlier.  There’s even a certified Football War – an actual war that resulted after a soccer game dispute between El Salvador and Honduras.

The actual value of these assets and liabilities can sometimes be hard to measure, and it might be unfair to tie any of the problems that come with these events with the sports or the games themselves.

Indeed, many of these problems are persistently present outside of the sporting world, and these issues are often more related to how institutions run themselves, be they sporting associations, governments, religious groups, clubs, or businesses.  Whenever there is a system in place by which things need to get done, it is important to ask how these systems may lead to some behaviours and outcomes.

For instance, Ruben Jongkind, a coach and advisor in several Dutch professional football clubs, promotes an approach that emphasizes sport as a way to connect and grow together, in terms of physical, mental, and community health, with a lesser emphasis on winning as the only goal.  This is not to say that sport shouldn’t ever be competitive – there are advantages to having a dose of healthy competition to drive self- and team-improvement – but it is to say that, when focusing exclusively on competition and winning as the main goal, we risk losing sight of the other gifts that sports have to offer to individuals and the community.

My friends, I haven’t brought up this conversation to admonish anyone for liking the sport or game that you might like – it is important to have passions, especially those that connect you to things larger than yourself.  The benefits of sport and team games, whether you actively engage in one, or enjoy watching it at an arena or at home, are many.

It is also important, my friends, to remain mindful of the risks that come when scoring goals becomes the only goal.  And to maintain an active awareness of the impacts that certain systems in sports organizations, or any institution for that matter, can have in areas that go beyond the games themselves, especially when these can affect large populations and vulnerable people.

There are no easy answers, my friends, but there are important questions to ask if we want to turn the world around, be it at the World Cup, or in the playground.

So may it be,
In the spirit of fair play,
Amen

Copyright © 2022 Rodrigo Emilio Solano-Quesnel

Closing #1074 Turn the World Around

Words & Music: Harry Belafonte, 1927- and Robert Freedman, © 1975 Clara Music Publishing Corp. (ASCAP).
Administered by Next Decade Entertainment, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.
~)-| Arr. Jason Shelton, 1972-

Michael Tacy 


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