Written by Debra Katz
Edited by: Natalie Cormier (email@example.com)
I recently watched the AT &T original documentary television series: Religion of Sports: Through the Darkness (episode 2, airing November 17, 2017). It was playing on the television in my living room as I passed by on the way to the kitchen. The insightful words being spoken both by the narrator and a San Quintin prisoner being interviewed stopped me in my tracks, even though I was pretty hungry. I thought, “Wow, this is a very deep content for a television series about sports!”. So when the credits rolled at the end, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that it was written by, and actually narrated by Gotham Chopra, who turned out to be Deepak Chopra’s son. I didn’t even know he had a son, much less one that is a filmmaker. Pretty cool!
This particular episode is about prisoners who bonds together through sports to make a better life for themselves and each other, while they are in prison and once released. Altering their environment makes all the difference in the world to them. It demonstrates how a combination of interpersonal intervention, where inmates are helped to change inner illusions, such as helping prisoners unravel the “untruths” they adopt in prison that foster separation, racism and violence, paired with a focus on the spiritual, along with an emphasis on changing the physical conditions of one’s environment, achieve results and save lives. This is also done outside of prison to ensure others will stay out of it, by renovating sports fields, turning dilapidated, crime infested lots into parks and recreation areas, along with other efforts of connecting people with purposeful activities in relation to the space they live in.
Marvin Mutch, one of the former inmates of San Quentin, an older man who was interviewed, said the following words that caught my attention:
“Once I went to prison (from 1975 to 2016) and could see through the darkness. I saw there were souls scattered around everywhere, bodies of broken lives, they were pleading, and they were asking me to go on this journey and fix things. In the Talmud, I read it was believed that god created man to complete his creation, to finish what he had put here. If you are going to believe in any purpose we have, it is to make good in whatever is bad. It is called “Ta-coo-u-lam” , which means to repair the world. Our job is to find the shards of the broken vessel, retrieve them and make them whole. That is a project that took every moment of my time for 41 years”.
Another former inmate who comes back to help his former team mates at the prison, now a pastor, says that an important step in helping the prisoners prepare for release, is to help them understand who they are. They need to know that it’s not what they have done or their title that defines them, but who they are as a person on the inside. Some also spoke about the tiny mountain they saw outside their little window. Those who look at that mountain every day and stay focused on the freedom it represents, seeing themselves one day at the top of that mountain, are the ones that make it through and come back (as a visitor) to share what that’s like.
“I hurt so many people, that’s the toughest aspect to live with in life” says one of the released men as he hikes up a mountain. Gotham Chopra, as narrator, responds with the reminder: “The only escape from time is to be grounded in the present. To exist in the here and now, no matter how fleeting it is. Not bound by the past, not imprisoned by the uncertainly of the future, but to be free in this moment”. (Chopra, 2017).
This is an AT & T original series. Executive Producers are Tom Brady, Gotham Chopra, and Michael Strahan.
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