What I'm about to say is likely to frustrate a few of you. I hope you will one day forgive me. I just can't help myself. I have a few thoughts I'd like to share about the olympics. The truth is that all of the olympic hype sorta bothers me. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there is a lot of good that comes out of the olympics and you can't help but feel impressed by the determination and will that drives some humans to accomplish such remarkable athletic feats. Will and determination do impress me, no doubt. But there are two elements of the whole olympic experience that really bother me.
First, is the general lack of commitment it requires of the majority of us. Sure, we are fascinated by the will it took to train so hard. We may even have a chat with our friends about how we are going to develop that sorta will AFTER we munch down another bag of popcorn, but we are unlikely to get very far before something sweet or shiny catches our eye. Not only do the vast majority of us do nothing more than stare at a television screen with our buts glued to a couch as we watch the olympics, but we don't really even know much about what it is we are watching. We flip on the tube to watch...I don't know...archery. We watch for maybe five minutes because someone we trust said its really worth watching. After five minutes we've learned everything there is to know about archery from the commentator and we are ready to move on. When its all over we feel a sense of connection with our nation's victors and may even yell out, "we won" as if we have somehow contributed to victory through our sloth and gluttony. It is in many ways a microcosm of all that is ridiculous about the world we live in. We want to have our very short attention spans satisfied every minute of every day, we don't want to have to do anything to earn that satisfaction, and most importantly we want to feel as though we're better than everybody else without doing anything.
Second, considering most of us will play no more role in the olympics than exercising our fingers as we surf through the competitions on our television set, we sure do pour an awful lot of money and time into the event. We can't seem to find enough money to pay our school teachers, but we somehow manage to scrape up $40 million to plan and implement the opening ceremony. Most of those I know who have been glued to their couch over the past couple of days have also repeatedly told me they have no time to (grow their own food, cook from scratch, recycle, volunteer at the food pantry, etc.) I find it amazing that they have all somehow managed to find the time to devote a week or more to continuous coverage of a sporting event. It must be a miracle!
Imagine the carbon footprint of this one event! Imagine the waste stream from this one event! Imagine for a minute just how little any of it matters! My point is not to vilify the olympics. I don't really have anything against the olympics. My point is to put it all in perspective and to ask a bit about our priorities and our commitments. What if we each exercised the same will and determination as the olympic athletes we watch? What if we funneled that will and determination into solving social and environmental problems? What if we devoted the same amount of time and money we spend entertaining ourselves into helping others? What if we lived in a world in which those who give their lives to making the world a better place were applauded? What if instead of passing an olympic torch we were committed to passing on a world and a way of life with a future? What if?
Vincent M. Smith