I’ve been contemplating a spiritual lesson from our Wii fit. More specifically, I’ve come to this conclusion about legalism.
The ,Wii fit leads the viewer/player/fitness weenie through a series of exercises. Some of the exercise use the balance board. The balance board records how much wieght is distrubuted on the two sides. Others use the wii-mote, which records how it quickly and in which direction it is moved.
Based on this data, the wii scores the exercises. It keeps track of these scores. In families like mine, these became fuel for bragging rights.
(It might be true that I’m a sad little man for looking for bragging rights over my 12, 9, and 7 year old children. But that’s not the point of this post.)
The thing is, the Wii doesn’t really calculate how good you are at all aspects of an exercise. It only tracks your wieght distrubution or motion. Because of this, it almost encourages you to slack in the non-recorded areas.
For example, their is a yoga stretch called the half- moon. To do the half-moon you stand on the balance board, reach your arms over your head, and stretch to the side. It creates this wonderful pulling sensation in the sides.
One important aspect of the half-moon, apparently, is that weight remain evenly distrubuted. And this, in fact, is all that the wii records. If you stood completely straight and didn’t stretch at all it would score you quite high. On the other hand, if you push yourself a bit, and stretch hard, perfect balance becomes quite a challenge to mantain.
It’s probably bad to stretch so hard that the distrubutiuon of weight is thrown way off. A perfect system would probably take this into account– but if the stretching is the whole point, it seems like a perfect system would at least also take this into account.
The result of this failure in the system is that there are two different ways it actually encourages mediocre performance. First off, on an individual level it rewards only paying attention to the areas that are monitored and ignoring the whole point of the thing. Secondly, to whatever extent a person is competetive, it further benefits that person to seek out a score rather than do the exercise “correctly.”
My point is not that somebody ought to develop a better gaming system. My point is that this is a way to look at our spititual lives.
Consider prayer. There are things that we can monitor about others praying. We can hear their words. We can monitor their tone. We can see if they kneel, if they fold their hands, if they quote scripture off the top of their heads.
It seems to me that all these things are like wieght distrubution on the half-moon yoga pose. They are not completely irrelevant. But nor are they the whole point.
The things that are the whole point, these things are not ones we can monitor: the content of their hearts, their intent, their attitudes…
We are not so crass as to give people points on a 0-100 point scale based on what we see of their prayers. But we judge people nonetheless. The situation is worse than just that the things we can observe are not the important things. I’d suggest that it’s actually a temptation for us to put so much energy and time into the things that others will notice that we rob the things that are really important. It’s like playing Wii fit, and not pushing myself to that fullest stretch, because I know that if I do give that full stretch then my balance will be all messed up and my score will be lower.
In the end fitness and faith shouldn’t be done for other people’s approval. Those words, I suppose, are so much more difficult to live up to than they are to write.