Yesterday seemed to be one of those slightly strange days, that effectively occur all the time now, when we are gripped with something of a sense of unreality.
We switch on Wimbledon and see large golf-umbrellas held over the players to keep the sun from them as they rest between games; cricket gets going at Lord’s and the Irish Open begins in Portstewart at the same time as sabre-rattling between the USA and North Korea is taken to an emergency meeting of the Security Council, and a joint European and Japanese spacecraft is launched to explore Mercury (it will take seven years to get there).
Our minds have somehow to comprehend timescale and level of importance, that can laugh at a popped champagne cork landing on a tennis court in London, yet be able to comprehend the seriousness of life and death issues that are troubling, moment by moment, millions of people on this world of ours. How do we cope? Can we switch off and bury our heads in the sand?
I find myself weighing up levels of threat and attempting to discern from news reports just how the ongoing determination that humanity has to destroy itself is heading for success. The other option appears to be to pretend. To pretend that nothing is really the matter at all, or that it is all happening somewhere else and can never reach us.
The interconnectedness of the world, environmentally, economically, and in terms of communication and travel, tends to enhance, rather than deny, the reality of the threats facing human life. But, unless we are going to go insane, we actually need the lesser trials of strength and human endurance that tomorrow will see the British and Irish Lions attempt a great victory over the All Blacks and the hope of seeing a British player or two make it into the second week of Wimbledon.
It will not stop a ballistic missile, nor will it bring hope to those caught up in conflict, or bring relief to the cholera-struck areas of east Africa, or even bring Stormont back to answer questions and make decisions, but, lest we look upon sport as only casual entertainment, rather than a testing of human endeavour, it is worth dwelling on how we live with these paradoxes.
Those who have watched the Hunger Games films will appreciate just how the juxtaposition of luxury, sport and suffering in a highly controlled environment is both threatening and unreal, but, where we are masters of our own destiny, to some considerable extent and humanly speaking, it is common sense to treat seriously and competently the challenges that face our planet and its civilisation as a global people, whilst allowing our sense of competitiveness to absorb the field of sport and help us recognise not only that we are not so terribly different from others, but can also applaud those who have proven themselves to be more able or gifted than ourselves.