After this week’s Women’s World Cup final, I asked Jake Meador (who wrote this issue’s piece on the mysteries of soccer) whether he derived more awe from great stars like Lionel Messi or from the more generalized beauty of the game itself. The difference isn’t so stark, he said. “At first I think you need to see the master using the tool for you to appreciate it,” he told me. He’s more likely to appreciate the generalized beauty of the violin when hearing it played by Joshua Bell than by an amateur, he said. But there’s a joy and satisfaction in seeing even lesser-skilled players reach beyond their grasp.
It turns out that oxytocin, the subject of our lead story this issue, seems to play a role in blurring the line between star soccer players and their skilled teams. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found a connection between a player celebrating a successful penalty kick and that player’s team winning a penalty shootout. Raising both arms in the air was especially effective at encouraging subsequent teammates to score. (It also seemed to encourage subsequent opponents to miss!) A follow-up study published in The Scientific World Journal argued that a key mechanism driving the effect was oxytocin: the chemical lets successful players share their emotions with their team, boosting confidence, team cohesion, and other good feelings that help players perform better.
I won’t try to draw a connection between oxytocin and John Hus, whose death (600 years ago this week) we’re commemorating in this issue. But in rereading his story I have no doubt that it triggered a fair bit of oxytocin in my own brain. Like the star athlete whose goals prompt better play in others, I found myself inspired to more holy living and more love of neighbor.
That inspiration is what love does. It’s what oxytocin promotes. It’s what awe kindles. And we hope that with each issue of The Behemoth, you’re not just flooded with a warm hormone, but prompted toward greater love of God and neighbor.
—Ted Olsen, co-editor
- The Shalom of Neurochemistry
Oxytocin rewards us for human connection. /
- The Long Legacy of a Roasted Goose
Proto-reformer John Hus was burned at the stake 600 years ago this week. We are all Hussites now. /
- The Messi-ness of the World
The universe is losing a bit of its enchantment for me. But then there’s Barcelona’s forward. /
‘The hobbyist / aims a drum / of fierce / aluminum.’ /
- Wonder on the Web
Issue 26: Links to amazing stuff /