Weekend Word: BBC Wales 25/11/2011

With the country still coming down from an heroic World Cup and gearing up to celebrate Shane Williams’ final game next week, this is a good moment for Welsh rugby. Young players, full of flair and passion, line up beside grizzled veterans who embody Welsh pride, skill and tenacity. And to crown it all, England are in a mess.

This week’s leaked reports about what was happening behind the scenes of the England team make grim reading for an Englishman like me. There’s disarray, indiscipline, weak leadership and bad coaching. But most damaging are murmurs that some players were motivated more by money than love of the game or national pride. That strikes a nerve because it reinforces the suspicion that, just a generation after Rugby Union went professional, money is undermining its spirit.

It’s too easy to moralise about the corrosive effects of money and commercialization on sport. The Wales players get paid like everyone else, and most people would say, good luck to them! But as fans we want to see people playing for pride and sportsmanship, and those things have nothing to do with money.

This week’s report on care for the elderly shows how looking at the bottom line can lead us to miss what’s most important. There will always be financial pressure on social services, but unless they start with the needs of the people they serve and allow workers time to give care and kindness, things go wrong.

It’s the same in our own lives. Almost all of us have to think about how we’ll get money … and then get some more. For those in work, hours are getting longer and demands more intense, while those without jobs have frustration and insecurity. But the motivation of earning or the worry of not earning can grow imperceptibly until they dominate our lives, squeezing the joy out of them.

As a Buddhist I try to stay in touch with things that bring satisfaction but have no price tag. There’s time with friends and family – and spending time with myself is also important. There’s nature, and reflection, and something about the meaning and shape of my life that I can’t even put into words. And just occasionally, there’s just a touch of the courage and imagination you see these days when Wales take to the rugby pitch.