So, we’re a few days into the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
I love watching the Olympics. So great. And I remember being in London years ago. Also great. So London Olympics? Nice.
I have to say that I didn’t really find the opening ceremonies that engaging (although I’m sure many of you will disagree). I felt like we started at Bag End in the Shire with that pastoral setting, then somehow ended up in Isengard when those towers came out of the ground. Then there was a blur of hospital beds, then some great music…then I fell asleep for a bit and then saw them light the torch.
Anyway, I’m already starting to hear people around me talking about the fact that these athletes are kicking butt at such young ages, “which makes me look at my life and ask, ‘what have I done that’s so great?'” Really. People are saying that to me. You’d probably say that to me if you knew me. But maybe not. Maybe you’re an incredibly well-adjusted person with no issues and no patience for people in general. In that case, give yourself a medal.
But for the rest of us in Nobody Nation, I think this reflection is a normal question every time we watch greatness unfold before us. It could be envy. It might be jealousy. It is possibly just an idle lament. Whatever it is, it is what it is. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with my friends when they mention this, but I understand why they say it.
For me, the study of religion, philosophy, and spirituality has really provided some interesting insights into things like karma, but ideas like that are cold comfort to a person in the throes of inferiority. It’s saying something like, “You accomplish what you’ve accomplished based on merit or de-merits of past actions. Therefore, you are watching from your couch while a 16-year-old becomes a 3-time gold medalist.”
That makes sense in a spiritual point-of-view, but from the point-of-view of the person living their lives in the here and now? Well…not so much.
So, what are we to do? What are we to say to a person who is feeling a bit down about what they haven’t accomplished? Because it’s not really about the Olympics. It’s about where we are in life, and where we always expected to be.
Well, hopefully you steer them here to Nobody’s View so they can feel like they are part of Nobody Nation. That’s a good idea. But also, perhaps you could provide a short list of what they have accomplished. Are they a good parent? Did they get out of prison early for good behavior? Do they do an honest day’s work? Did they give to charity this year? Are they maintaining sobriety? Are they battling illness in a courageous way?
We do great things all the time, but we don’t always have someone to point that out to us. Sometimes, just pointing that out can help someone feel better about who, and where, they are.
The point is, we can’t all be a one-in-a-million swimmer or center for the U.S. national basketball team. But we can be a one-of-a-kind us. That’s right. Unique. Nobody else does what we do the way we do it, because we are who we are, whether we are rowing in London or working a paddle boat at the park with the kids in Omaha.
No one can succeed like us. No one can fail like us.
But then again, there’s that karma thing. Just can’t shake that. Instead of bemoaning that you “haven’t accomplished anything,” think about the idea that the life you are living right now is really a product of previous actions. That you are where you are because of where you’ve been. Don’t fight that or swim against the current. Accept it, if you can. Consider that the goal of life isn’t to envy the gold medalist, but to empower your circumstances to make the most of what you have. Freezing cold comfort? Maybe. But warm up to it.
If we remind ourselves over and over and over that our lives have an intrinsic value, then we will begin to believe it. And the world will change. It will. Why? Because we won’t be looking for it to fulfill us or to meet our expectations. In that way, we stop feeling envy, because we aren’t looking for external things to fulfill us. We are where we are, doing what we do, and we must do it to the best of our ability because that is our job. Not swimming. Not fencing. Not beach volleyball. No medals. No sports drinks. Just the action for the sake of the action.
I’m going to watch a lot of the Olympics this year. I love it. And, yes, I’ll probably fall prey to the terrible, “what have I done by now?” thoughts. But then, when the coverage ends, I’ll shut the TV off, roll over, and have a good night’s sleep. Why? Because tomorrow’s a work day, and my job isn’t to be an 18-year-old 200m freestyle competitor. And I have to be good with that. Or else I won’t have much of anything.