“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever ... that there should be time no longer” (Revelations 10:1-2, 5-7)When Thanatos, dragging his golf trolley, devising tactics for Bolton Wanderers, with his skeletal hand operating the sock puppet known as Geoffrey Boycott, expelled his foul breath over our professional sports he found a tenacious ally in the capitalist mode of production. Where else has the life-force known as play putrefied into such a degenerative alienated series of rituals, so detached from the urges and uses that were their genesis?
If the effect of alienated society is to turn Eros into inertia, then the passage of time is representative of a steep downward curve. So as projects to break that curve can abate and push against it in solidarity with life, the effect of pausing time can fleetingly liberate our buried instinct for unproductive unmediated joy.
The thrill of the volley is undeniable. From the game of keepie-uppie at the garden BBQ to the court of play, avoiding the inevitable grounding of the ball posits human action against inevitable logic. Life against death. That brief moment of breathlessly striving to keep the ball in the air interrupts our incessant perception of our lives moving towards the end.
We encounter this effect in tennis, football, cricket and badminton (and no doubt many other games) to some degree or another but in volleyball it finds its magisterial realisation. The moment of timelessness is not only highly extended but is the real crux of the game. Notice when playing with friends the competitive aspect and player rules are unimportant, the spike – the smash to hit the ball on the other team’s parts of the court and score – is done away with. The effort to keep the ball in flight counts for all. If there is competition it is only against gravity.
Played in teams of six the effort to undo entropy, to push against its psychologically debilitating corollary, by keeping the ball in the air no matter what is a truly exhilarating experience. Not only are our minds and body temporarily freed from the dualism that ruins us psychologically under the social division of labour but goes further (like musical performance) into a psycho-sensual coming together of different people, physically and mentally, into an unalienated collective. When capitalism is finally done away with, volleyball shall be played still, surely, for this effervescent affect.