There is nothing as liberating as a good soccer game. It can also be dangerous in parts of the world as soccer has been the inciting stimulus for riots, death threats, murder, and in one case, a war between Honduras and El Salvador. Recently this harm extended to an owl. A tame barn owl, the mascot of a Columbian soccer team, flew down to the field during a game and was hit by the ball. While still stunned, Panamanian footballer Luis Moreno kicked the bird off the field. The bird died two days later, suffering a broken wing and shock. The crowd yelled "murderer," and Moreno had to leave the game under police escort. Since then he has received threats. He won't be prosecuted because Columbia has no laws against animal cruelty, although the soccer league penalized him by requiring a fine and banning him from the next two games.
This is a painful reminder of how humans in their worst moments do not have the capacity for compassion and care, even when beauty of game and bird surrounds them. But sometimes we do.
In a 2008 soccer game between Finland and Belgium, a great-horned owl visits the game, flying around the stadium and landing on the goal posts. The officials stopped the game and the crowd cheers and applauds the owl. Smiles and laughter abound.
In another instance, rescuers remove another Great-horned Owl that had become entangled in a soccer net.
There is beauty all around us, and there is nothing as liberating as people responding by loving and saving the birds of our world. How though do we make sense of our complicated natures where we both get a kick out of birds and kick them?
Sufi poet Rumi writes, "There is a field out beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing. I'll meet you there."
On that soccer field, great apes and owls are neither wrong or right. Instead we are caught up in our goal directed lives, and make tragic choices that harm ourselves and others.
May we this day see the beauty within and without, and in our gratitude, not penalize the beings of this earth.