I am writing this during the 2004 Olympics, which I have been following with interest. I reckon the Olympics is a perfect demonstration of mortal beliefs. These beliefs are to do with matter being real, that man has to take control over matter which has a tendency to fight back, that man’s experience is temporal, that you need to work or perform to receive and that life is essentially chaotic. Bearing some of these beliefs in mind, here are a few examples of how they are manifested in the Olympics.
The body is an important tool for any athlete. You can see the agony on athletes’ faces as they push their bodies to the limit. Unfortunately, they are struggling against self-imposed limitations i.e. beliefs that the collective have that the human body doesn’t always cooperate with man: the body gets tired, it is vulnerable to injury, it needs to be fed, it needs to undergo physical training for it to be fit and strong, it needs the right climatic conditions etc. Surprise, surprise – what athletes believe as truth is made manifest in their experiences.
Athletes are now trying different methods to help them transcend bodily limitations. Over the years athletes have become more aware of how beliefs create reality and the correct use of mind. I would imagine their coaches have been on personal development courses to learn about mind/body techniques which they pass on to their clients. I have heard some athletes describe being in the “zone” – a state where one is in the present and performing within that state. Other athletes go on special diets and put themselves through rigorous physical disciplines; some employ various therapists to help them conquer pain. A few have tried performance enhancing drugs and have suffered the consequences.
In every sport, time is a very important factor. Athletes are always fighting against time or trying to keep up with time. Records are broken; records are lost. There is also much talk about athletic seasons and personal seasons. An athlete being interviewed complained that the reason he performed badly was because the Olympics had come too early in his season. Athletes are also very much aware of the age factor. They know that they’ve only got a certain amount of time before they are usurped by someone younger and more superior. When a gymnast was asked whether she intended to compete in the next Olympics, she said she will be too old; in four years she will be 23 years old, now that’s really old in the world of the gymnast. Incredible! Occasionally, there emerges an athlete like Linford Christie, the British athlete who years ago broke the 100 metres record and won the Olympics gold even though he was in his late thirties. There’s always someone pushing the boundary to what is considered the norm.
There is the prevalent belief that if you work really hard for something you deserve to have it. Nothing comes for free in this game of life. But it’s not enough to be deserving, you have to desire it pretty badly as you’re competing for the only one prize worth having – gold. I watched the 1500 metres finals last night. There was a particular athlete who has missed two Olympics; he has won many titles but the Olympic title had eluded him. Last night he finally got his dream fulfilled. To paraphrase how the commentator described the athlete: the look on his face was that he wanted the gold more than the guy in second place chasing him, who would have been happy with silver or bronze; the one who wanted it badly enough got what he deserved.
The problem with the mortal condition is that it is unpredictable. There’s an element of chance/luck which you could also describe as destiny.
You could train as hard as you like and be extremely fit but if you’re unlucky things can go against you. Last night I watched the women’s 100 metres hurdles finals. The world champion, who was expected to win, hit the first hurdle, fell on the track and tripped over the Russian athlete on the track beside her. The Russian athlete had done nothing wrong, yet she was stopped in her tracks by someone else’s error. When the American athlete who won the race was asked if she expected to win, she said she wanted to win and knew she was going to win. She said she’d even prayed to God to help her. Maybe it was her destiny. As I write this, I hear the Russians have appealed against the accident and the officials are considering whether to have a re-run, which will not be fair on the other athletes, particularly the top three. What has fairness got to do with the human condition? Some you win, some you lose. As one commentator said last night, you could do everything right but there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you deserve.
Some would argue that competitive sports is an opportunity to demonstrate spiritual qualities of discipline, perfection, power and strength. There are even those who claim they pray to God to help them win. I would say that if anyone wanted to demonstrate spiritual qualities, they are missing out the most important ingredient – love. Love doesn’t do competition. The God I know is on everybody’s side. With God, only win-win is possible.
I have this fantasy. Let’s say there’s an athlete who knows he is perfection, invincibility, power and strength. This athlete is competing in the long jump. He takes one leap and and as he flies over the stadium you think “Is it a bird, is it a plane, no, it’s Super-being!” Imagine the shock look on people’s faces when they see a human who can literally fly! What would the commentators have to say, or would they be too flabbergasted to respond? It’s not likely to happen because competitive sports will never attract those who know their essence is love. They wouldn’t even want to compete as competition is meaningless. You have to believe in the reality of matter, time, space, competition and chance for competitive sport to appeal to you. It’s a nice fantasy though.
The way I see it, athletes represent the human condition, mortal gods of this world. Gods are great at what they do because they focus on what they want and go for it, and they will fight whatever gets in their way. For me, the Olympic stadium is a microcosm of the world mortals live in. Mortals compete for everything they want. That’s the way it is. Those who have excelled at their disciplines like Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Bob Beamon, Cathy Freeman, Linford Christie and Michael Johnson have done so purely out of self-will and determination. Inevitably, they have all had to pass on the Olympic “torch” to younger athletes; it would seem time has marched them on to other ventures.
Still, the gods and goddesses of the Olympics make for good entertainment, I say.
I am the Commentator,