It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli

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In a neat little book by philosophy professor William B. Irvine, A Guide to a Good Life, he explores the pre-Christian philosophers known as Stoics.  These thinkers sought to understand how one might live a good life.  They examined life and experience so they might find what a contented and valued life might be, and how it might be realized.

The challenge to know and live a good life is no less present today than it was before Christ.

Deflated footballs makes this point for us today.

The recent controversy about the New England Patriots having footballs in the first half of their playoff game that were inflated below the National Football League standards gives us clues to a philosophy of a good life.  How so?

Well, consider this.  There has been no shortage of conversation in the press and on television about these deflated footballs.  The overwhelming content of the conversation was this: the Patriots cheated by intentionally deflating the footballs to gain an unlawful advantage in passing and catching the ball in cold and rainy weather.  Their coach was presumed to have ordered this.  Their quarterback as well was presumed to have been the prime mover in this act of deception and deceit.  Accusations aimed at them were asserted as truth.

Hold your horses, gang.  Few expressing their opinions knew the governing League rule, nor knew who in the League had custody of the footballs prior to the game.  None of the commentators had one fact surrounding the footballs that implicated either the coach or the quarterback, or any Patriot staff person in any act that caused these footballs to be below League rules.

Worse yet, there was not one word spoken about the science involved.

People were so intent on offering damning opinions they never asked: What is the science here? Who had custody of these footballs?  Did the game officials properly check the footballs as they were required to do?

No, there was more appeal to making accusations and judgments without reason, out of ignorance.  A habit we can all fall prey to.

Sadly, some of the comments seemed to reflect dislike for a particular team, a coach, a person and their repeated success, their record of excellence – indeed, a dislike for excellence itself.

Ironically, science can explain what happens to the air inside a football when it is cold and there is a steady rain and wind exerting itself on the ball.

What happens is simple to explain.  One, air molecules contract in cold air and expand in hot air.  Two, a football losses air pressure in cold. Three, rain and wind add to the effect cold has.  It is a matter of science, or nature that air pressure falls in cold, rain and wind.  These are easily ascertainable facts, significant to the issue at hand.  They are not to be ignored.

So what does this have to do with a philosophy of life?

By default the common philosophy on display in this public episode did not flatter the pundits and accusers.

The philosophy on display was: judge without facts, let your ignorance lead to opinion, speak before you know, accuse without reason, remain uninformed about basic aspects of the event you are commenting on, ask no particular probative questions, abandon restraint, forget the science, forget the governing rules, discard a presumption of innocence, shelve good will, doubt and calm, judge and risk defaming others, give no ground to demonstrated excellence that envy may take voice.

Is this a philosophy of life?  A way to a good life?  The way we sustain a good society?  Community?

You know the answer to these questions.  Now ask, is faith not at least a restraint on the poor conduct of those who judged so readily?  What else might give pause?  Are we not all susceptible to judging without reason?

Think about what a philosophy of life looks like and how it can be honored day by day.

Shalom.

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