Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup 2010, Paul the Octopus, and Thoughts about Freedom and Determinism

Oracle Octopus Paul predicting World Cup soccer games

Every four years, people globally go crazy and fanatic about soccer, mixing with it patriotism, politics, and even historical knowledge. People who live in countries of economic turmoil, for example, hold on steadfastly to their team for a little hope; a winning team can re-inject the nationals with new-found or rediscovered pride in their country, or soccer can be used and manipulated by governments to procure or regain popularity.

It happens on the world stage; the world is watching and everyone remembers previous bouts and rivalries between the countries on the soccer field. Germany fans, for instance, found long-awaited justice for a goal that was not in Wembley in 1966 with the goal that was but remained uncredited in the 2010 match against England.

Soccer fans have good memory, and they go even further back, sometimes up to fifty years or so. Fifty years! We are talking about whole sets of new generations, not only on the field but also those watching the tube. Countries have changed over that time period, yet soccer seems to be fixed and eternal in the annals of history.

This time around, a strange sea creature got a lot of media attention since he is credited with an ability not of historical memory but of awareness of future events and outcomes. I am referring to the now renowned and famous Paul the Octopus, who has correctly predicted every game of the German team, regardless of win or loss, and has even risen to give global prognoses and predictions while bathing in media attention.

Now my issue is not with an octopus being psychic. I have no problem with mind-bending feats. I do think - do not ask me how or why - that it is possible and that it defies reason. In fact, if I had listened to his prognosis, I would not have lost 10 dollars on a bet of the semifinal match-up. I am more interested in the implications of the statement. What if it is true that you can predict every game. Would we actually need to have any more World Cups?

This may sound silly, but think about it. If indeed we can know for sure what will happen, should we still make an effort in what we already recognize as a losing cause? Should Germany try its best to beat Spain, even though it has been established that they would lose come what may? Do we have any freedom then? How hard should we try? Where are our limits? Is it all about participation, the German “Dabeisein ist alles”?

It is a question I have been fascinated with for a long time, and I am sure, without being psychic, that there will be other posts on the topic as well. But here I find it appropriate to mention this dilemma once again, the clash between personal freedom and determinism or even fatalism if you like. I subscribe to a certain brand of fatalism because I think, and science may support my cause with its karmic reliance on cause and effect relationships that, simply put, you reap what you sow.

Yet at the same time it seems you will reap, no matter if or what you sow because the outcome will occur anyhow, with or without your assistance. The only glimmer of hope might be this: Paul was wrong in predicting the Euro-Final in 2008. Was it error on his part? Or did the opposing team actually manage to create an upset, not only physically on the field, but an upset or hiccup of higher cosmic dimensions. No one knows what is really happening and only time can tell.

1 comment:

John said...

Yikes. I do not know how to sow! I have tried and nothing grew! Yikes!