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“There are two breeds of Ping-Pong players: empiricists and metaphysicians,” says Guido Mina di Sospiro. “By adopting anti-spin paddles, empiricists declare explicitly who they are and what they stand for. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, are fascinated by the mysteries of spin, which propels them, willy-nilly, into the realm of four-dimensional, nonlinear geometry. They strive to bend the laws of physics by giving the ball the exact arc it needs to touch the deep end of the table rather than go long.”
The author clearly plays in the latter court. He explores the worldwide passion for table tennis by bringing in Plato and Aristotle, the Perennial Philosophy, and the psychology of C. G. Jung. Topics range from the importance of finding one’s guru in the game, to the shadow side of competition, to ping pong as a form of initiation vis-a-vis Chaos Theory. The higher the level of the game, the more its players are aligned with the Taoist Way, self-actualized in harmony with the cosmos.
As Mina di Sospiro shows, Ping-Pong has so many refreshingly illogical qualities about it that the “humble” sport becomes a metaphor for understanding the entire human condition. “If mankind dedicated more time to playing,” he says, “there would be less hostility in the world and probably fewer wars. And table tennis, both enormously popular and thoroughly cosmopolitan, points precisely in this direction.” As with planet Earth herself, it’s all in the spin.

The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong: Table Tennis as a Journey of Self-Discovery

  • Guido Mina di Sospiro
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