I forgot to bring any reading material today’s flight and I’ve seen everything worth watching on cathay’s inflight programming. Given a lack of other options, I was forced to spend the last few hours thinking – and could not help but seriously wonder – why am I on this plane, heading away from the comforts of home, family and friends to a foreign land?
The factual answer is – to play polo. But the real question is – why? When you sit back and think about it, we’re a bunch of grown men (and sometimes a woman or two) chasing after a little white ball at high speed on an animal that would probably much rather be left alone to graze. It’s dangerous, expensive, time consuming, and like all contact sports, physically harsh. From a strictly logical perspective, doing this makes no sense. Polo is not the only utterly daft pastime. I have a large number of friends who make sacrifices to prepare for, and travel vast distances to compete in marathons and triathlons, or do other ridiculous things like climb mountains. Why do we bother? No one I know will actually win a marathon or be the first to climb any particular mountain – so it’s clearly not for fame or glory.
Most significant things we do are the result of logical decision making, influenced in no small part by circumstances and things that are outside our control. When I think about my decision to go to college, work in finance, move to different countries, make any particular investment, etc, I can easily recollect the reasons why I made those choices, even if some of they didn’t pan out perfectly in the end. Even when I think of indulgences like travel or the purchase of luxury goods, there is some logical reason – to see a new place, taste different food, to own something rare, nice looking, or meticulously made. If I look back at my history with this sport, I grew up in a house filled with trophies that my father had won in his younger days and it just seemed like the natural thing to do when I was old enough (perhaps it helped that was not particularly good at anything else at that stage of my life). I stopped riding when I left the country for university – but got back in the saddle within days of returning to the country in 2009.
What is inexplicable is not why I started playing as a kid, but rather, why I am still doing it? I live in a country where I am at least 3 hours flying from the nearest accessible polo fields, I am in serious pain every time I play (which suggest I am physically not cut out for it), when you had up the costs of flights, hotels and pony rental, I am probably spending way more than I should on an idle pastime, and most critically, I’m not particularly good at it – most people who have played actively for over 4 years are playing much better than me (which at the very least suggests that I am severely un-talented).
Undoubtedly, I genuinely love playing polo – there are few things in life that are as exhilarating as playing a fast chukka. But the question is, is it worth it? When I ask people who do other seemingly irrational things (climbing mountains, running full marathons, driving race cars, etc) at great cost and risk, they always reply positively with confidence. But when I probe further, very few could convince me that they have thought it through fully. Perhaps this is a good thing – a life lived logically is probably a ridiculously dull life. For now, I’m going to continue to be (quoting my favourite movie) “a silly boy on a horse with a stick”