The Best we Can Offer

Mirror Image

 

We are coming to the end of our series on mindfulness, a series that was written more in social media than at this website.  I hope you followed along on my twitter page.  We now our approaching Lent.  Lent is, after all, a four letter word and often that is felt with the commonly held attitudes about four letter words!

 

Lent is a time of reflection and often, sacrifices.  It is really a journey we undertake.  Perhaps one way to undertake keeping a holy Lent would be to follow the example of Lewis Carrol’s character Alice and fall into our mirror.  What would we really see if we fell into the looking glass of our lives?

 

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”   Mark Twain spoke gospel words when he said that.  How often do we look in the mirror and think we are not as good as we should be?  What happens when we are too full of ourselves?  When are we being prideful and when are we practicing self-respect?

 

Many would say that pride and self-respect are the same thing while others have written that they are two different sides of the same coin.  I have no worldly wisdom here.  Let me say that before we go any further.   I too am on a quest.  If I was perfect and/or had all the answers, I would no longer being seeking.  I would have arrived.

 

In my humble opinion, pride is fine as long as it does not include a sense of better-ness, of being on a higher plane of existence than anyone else.  I might even go so far as to say there are many times in which pride and self-respect can be synonyms.  However, pride that elevates one’s personal worth to being “better” than another is wrong.

 

Self-respect means seeing the value in one’s existence.  That existence will not be perfect, though, and it will have its challenges.  It will be a journey and like most journeys, it will have its detours and delays.  However, the journey will also have a purpose and value.

 

The Reverend Peter Marshall once said Americans should not look to their Constitution as carte blanche to do whatever they wanted but rather as an opportunity to do right.   When you live with intentions, you live with purpose.  Anyone who lives with a purpose has to have self-respect.  You cannot and should not separate one from the other.

 

The dilemma about self-respect and building it is not a new challenge.  In his “History of the Peloponnesian War”, Thucydides spoke of it.  “Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.”

When we look into a mirror, we see a reflection staring back at us.  That reflection is just an outer covering.  What we should respect and inspect is the deeper self of the character within the outer shell.  Joan Didion explains:  “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”

Life is not for the weak or lazy.  It takes courage and it requires an intention to live.  When we accept those two gauntlets that being born shoves on us, then we can live and build our self-respect.  Author Adrienne Rich agrees.  “Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”

 

The reward to really being the image we want to see in the mirror is the best prize of all.  We gain self-respect and control over our being.  No one can ever deny us that.  You will never be without yourself when you can respect yourself.  Happiness requires that we have some measure of self-respect.  Be happy and start building your own bed of self-respect.

 

Life is much easier when you look into the mirror and can smile at your own reflection.  Then we are able to smile at others and be sincere.  A smile is the first invitation to others to join us on our journey of faith.  That is the blessing of truly keeping a holy Lent.  The end of Lent is not the end of our journey but rather an important layover.  The story does not end with Easter.  The resurrection is our invitation to fully live into our own self-worth.

 

Religion is not about the end game – a series of rules in which one wins a golden ticket into heaven if they are all followed.  Religion is about the game of here and now, living each day to the best of our abilities.  We achieve true spirituality and make the most of whatever dogmas we hold to be true when we are able to see ourselves in the faces of all we meet.  We are the world and each of us is, in some form or fashion, related to our neighbor.  If we are to have a future, we must first see ourselves in each other.

The Monopoly of Life

The Monopoly  of Life

Easter – April 1, 2018

 

ON this day when many celebrate the victory of one over death, I want to speak to those who see life as a game.  Certainly there are many video games based upon this concept.  We should never mistake our breathing as being the same as an inanimate character on a video screen, however.  Life is far too precious to reduce to a competitive activity played for entertainment.  We need to own our living and make it count.

 

Ownership is usually considered when discussing material things like house, cars, business, or property.  The concept of land ownership is both new and old and is the reason behind many lawsuits, disagreements, and wars.  Throughout time cultures have advocated the communal use of the land while at the same time wanting to control such lands.  It may sound complicated but think of the game Monopoly.   Elizabeth Magie used this game she invented to protest unfair economic policy.

 

The point of Monopoly is to obtain properties (or at least cards with titles to spaces on the game board that signify properties0 and then allow others to use your land in the form of rent paid to the property or card owner.  The game player becomes the landlord and every time someone lands on a space for which he/she “owns” the card, rent must be paid.  Sound a bit unfair?  Elizabeth Magie thought so, too.

 

A monopoly is when a person or company is the only one offering a certain product, usually a necessary commodity.  A monopsony is a single entity’s control of a particular market to obtain an item and oligopoly is a few businesses dominating a particular field or industry.  Who would have thought all of these could be expressed in a game?  Elizabeth Magie did.

 

The examples I will use are found in the United States of America but none of these terms or economic policies are the sole characteristic of the U.S.A.  Every country on earth has them – regardless of their political structure.  In fact, the more restrictive a government, the more these terms are present and carried out in life.

 

If I want to see a professional baseball game in the U.S.A., I have to go see a team that is part of Major League Baseball.  There simply are no other professional baseball teams in the United States.  That was not always the case, however.  In the early 1900’s there were a number of professional leagues that were trying to make money by playing before paying crowds.  Baseball was a most popular sport, often called “America’s Game” although variations are found in many cultures worldwide.

 

These different leagues were not always playing fair or as gentlemen and in 1915, the Federal Baseball Club in Baltimore sued the National and American Leagues under the Clayton Antitrust Act, a law designed to help protect consumers.  If only one business offered a necessary product, that business could charge whatever it desired and consumers would be at the mercy of said business’s possible price-gouging.  The Federal baseball Club wanted to have a fair share of the public’s affinity for baseball but could not compete with the larger National and American Leagues.  Pardon my pun but they wanted to level the playing field, so to speak.

 

The court case made its way through the court system and eventually ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court.  The 1922 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes has resulted in professional baseball being the only sport in America exempt from antitrust laws, a sport often called “America’s favorite monopoly.”  FYI – Major League baseball will begin its 140th season on April 3, 2016.

 

In writing the decision of the court, Justice Holmes penned:  “The fact that, in order to give the exhibitions, the Leagues must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business. …  The transport is a mere incident, not the essential thing. That to which it is incident, the exhibition, although made for money, would not be called trade of commerce in the commonly accepted use of those words. …  Personal effort not related to production is not a subject of commerce. That which in its consummation is not commerce does not become commerce among the states because the transportation that we have mentioned takes place.”

 

Let me make his eloquent words more easily understood.  Baseball is not commerce because it does not “produce” anything.  Antitrust or monopoly laws refer to things that are produced and because baseball does not produce anything, it is not commerce and therefore not subject to laws of commerce.

 

Land ownership and land value might seem to fall under the same sort of issue.  Early American patriots advocated that the land was for all and all should benefit equally from its usage.  Certain economics philosophies such as Georgism gained popularity with many followers.  Georgism was so named after Henry George, the author of “Progress and Poverty”, a book in which George upheld that while people may individually own what they create, natural opportunities such as land belong equally to all.

 

Elizabeth Magie was a follower of Henry George and led an active life with varied careers.  In the early 1880’s she worked as a stenographer and was a writer.  She also worked as a comedian, actress on stage, an engineer, and not surprisingly, a feminist.  By the dawn of the 1900’s she had a job as a newspaper reporter and at the age of 44, married.

 

Magie invented a board game which was designed to demonstrate the ill effects economically of land monopolies and how land taxes could alleviate such problems.  She called her game “The Landlord’s Game” and obtained a patent on January 5, 1904.  In 1932 she revised the game and obtained a new patent for the newly named “The Landlord’s Game and Prosperity”.

 

Elizabeth Magie followed her own economic philosophies of Georgism with her game.  She did not have it sold to a commercial manufacturer.  Burton Wolfe explains:  “Players… made their own game boards so that they could replace the properties designated by Lizzie Maggie with properties in their own cities and states; this made playing more realistic. As they drew or painted their own boards, usually on linen or oil cloth, they change the title “Landlord’s Game” to “Auction Monopoly” and then just “Monopoly”.  One enthusiastic player of the game was student Priscilla Robertson who would later become the editor of “The Humanist”.  “In those days those who wanted copies of the board for Monopoly took a piece of linen cloth and copied it in crayon.”

 

The game grew a following and in 1932 Charles Darrow obtained a copyright for his version of the game.  It included the familiar white box of classic Monopoly games.  Also in 1932 Parker Brothers company bought Elizabeth Magie’s original patent for the sum of five hundred dollars.  In keeping with her original purpose of the game which was to popularize and spread the Georgism economic philosophy, by now whose followers were misnamed as “Single Taxers”, she was not interested in making money from her game but in illuminating the public.  She also insisted that Parker Brothers not make any changes to her game.  They reissued the game to the public but then immediately recalled it with very few being sold.

 

In 1940 just four years before her death, Elizabeth Magie, the original inventor of the game Monopoly, was still a strong voice for supporting what one believed.  “What is the value of our philosophy if we do not do our utmost to apply it? To simply know a thing is not enough. To merely speak or write of it occasionally among ourselves is not enough. We must do something about it on a large scale if we are to make headway. We must not only tell them, but show them just how and why and where our claims can be proven in some actual situation…”  Living one’s beliefs was not a game to Elizabeth Magie; it was life itself.

 

Your Vote

Your Vote

Pentecost 173

 

Earlier this year I wrote about liking ourselves and using that new-found favorable opinion of ourselves to make a difference. There are many things we can all do to create positive change.  One way is to vote.  Another is to make sure what we say truly reflects what we believe and is not just being said for humor.  Life deserves much more than a thirty second sarcastic sound bite, as one man discovered.

 

In an earlier post I told you about a guy who uses a bicycle instead of driving a car that would pollute the environment.  He takes commercial airplanes and lives modestly.  He is the youngest writer to have worked for the legendary comedian and humanitarian Bob Hope and is the comic genius behind such movies as Evan Almighty, Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, and others.  He has taught in colleges in California, Colorado, and Tennessee.  And once upon a time, he almost died and discovered death was no laughing matter.

 

“Facing my own death brought a sense of clarity and purpose,” Tom Shadyac told Oprah Winfrey once in an interview. “If I was, indeed, going to die, I asked myself: What did I was to say before I went? It became very simple and very clear. I wanted to tell people what I had come to know. And what I had come to know is that the world I was living in was a lie.”  Shadyac’s recuperation included starting a foundation, the Foundation for I AM.  “Ultimately, the goal of the Foundation for I AM is to help usher in a more loving, kind, compassionate, and equitable world for all.”

 

The mission of the Foundation for I Am is quite simple:  “The specific purpose of this corporation is to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those impoverished in our society. We will use our resources to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sick, and help heal the natural world; we will also serve those in spiritual need, those suffering from a different kind of poverty, a poverty of perspective and purpose, through educational programs and media that will foster a dialogue around the ideals of love, compassion, kindness and empathy. In addition, we will financially support existing non-profits whose work is kindred with the Foundation’s principles.” 

 

Some of the organizations and missions supported include St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital which treats and seeks cures and prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases without charging parents for such services.  The Haven at First and Market Streets is a community service center for the homeless and very poor in Central Virginia.  The International Charity Invisible Children seeks to end the war in Uganda and the abduction of children for use as child soldiers.  The mission of The MY HERO Project is to use media, art and technology to celebrate the best of humanity one story at a time.

 

By integrating the Fine Arts and science with the needs of Mankind, Shadyac offers us all a chance to redefine who we are and the opportunity to discover who each of us really is.  He reminds us that we can redefine who we are every day by the hope we live and give to others. 

 

We don’t need a big screen or even an art gallery to connect with the artistic side of our souls.  We can become donors for St Jude’s or other charities via the Internet or local contributions.  What the Foundation for I Am really does is remind us we are all connected and how we honor those connections defines that “I am”.  As we wind down our series on making the ordinary days something more, something positive, we will review just how we all can bring about a difference in life. 

 

What do you want the definition of your life to be?  How are you going to make it happen?  You are truly the master of the ship called your life.  No one can make you into something better unless you become an active part of that effort.  We should not simply follow the crowd but make informed decisions that reflect what we want our lives to be and to encompass.  A better self is possible if we work for it and that better self will lead to a better world and future.

 

One way to make today something great is to exercise your right in the USA to vote.  Many of the poll workers across the country today will be immigrants, not because they are trying to overtake but because they know, really know, the value and privilege it is to cast a vote, privately and without pressure or threat of life.  I will vote today for the person I would want eating at my table, talking to my children, sitting on the floor with my pets because really, leadership is being someone who makes life better for us all by sharing it with us.

Why?

Why?

Pentecost 156

 

What we think is based upon what we know.  So first one has to establish what it is that we think we know.   Hegel once defined or described philosophy as “the study of its own history”.  I might define it as the “Why?” that follow the “What?” once the “What?” is answered.

 

Theology has been, throughout time, one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?”  In answering that, the study of the meaning of life, also known as metaphysics arose.  That  led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology. 

 

Epistemology asks questions.  How is knowledge justified?  What are the sources of knowledge?  How do we know what we know?  Rationalism believed that pure reason was the most reliable source of knowledge while empiricism maintained that experience was.  Skepticism purported doubts about various states of knowledge based upon external world skepticism (How can there be a world outside our own minds?) and what is called “other minds skepticism” (We have no proof of other minds other than our own.).  It also led to solipsism which stated “Only I exist”.

 

Our living becomes quite ordinary in solipsism because while it may seem like it would boost one’s focus and lead to greater things, it really limits us.  The person who only thinks of themselves is limiting their world.  The one who believes the world revolves around him has made him or herself the center of everything.  They fail to fully understand their place in a very large world with many other beings.

 

Logic and philosophy became elements of our living as did a multitude of philosophers and theologians.  IN addition to the theological texts and the great many who interpreted them,  people studied Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Descartes, Fichte and Schelling…. The list is plentiful.  These philosophers agreed and then disagreed with each other, though since they occupied different periods in history, not unilaterally.  All sought to explain life while the religions and spiritualities of the world explained mankind’s relationship with life.

 

Two years ago this blog delved into various religions and spiritualities.  In discussing these, we found certain common truths.  The rule for living one with another often called the Golden Rule is found in eastern spiritualties as well as the Old and New Testaments.  It is difficult to have any discussions about theology that do not include philosophy.  The” Why?” that religion seeks to answer is part of the greater “Why?” that philosophy seeks to determine.

 

Where we do go wrong, how we limit our world and our potential is when we believe a form of solipsism that says not “Only I exist” but rather “Only my thinking can exist”. We cannot seek respect and then fail to respect others.  We cannot believe only one group or gender deserves life, education, or basic human rights.  Man is a varied animals with different colors of mane, eyes, skin; different shapes of eyes; different lengths of body, noses, arms and legs.  What we look like is about as important to our classification and right to live as the various colors of a rose.  The hues of a rose are beautiful and interesting but they do not change the fact that it is a rose. 

 

We must reach out to others as we seek to discover “Why?”  Our lives should include helping others because then we truly help ourselves and answer not only the “What?” but also the “Who?” and the “Why?”  Once we realize we are all in this thing called life together and need each other, the future is not only limitless, it becomes extraordinary.

Me, Myself, and …Who?

Me, Myself, and …Who?

Pentecost 145

 

If There are several scripture readings about the Supreme Being God saying “I AM”.  It is almost always written in capital letters and brings us to the topic for this week: self-love.  Not having a chance to confer with the original typographers of the first few thousand printed copies of the scriptures, I cannot confidently tell you I know why the phrase “I AM” is always written in capital letters but I think I have a pretty good idea as to why.  In the more popular computer speak or the text-speak of today’s generations, using capital letters signifies screaming.  Certainly any Creator Spirit certainly must feel like screaming at mankind at times; we are a most unruly group with our destruction of that which has been created.  In this case, however, I think it is to illustrate the importance of what is being said.

 

In trying to live in an extraordinary fashion, we must believe in ourselves.  It is simply impossible to do something even ordinary if we believe we cannot do anything.  My question to you is this:  When you think of who you are, do YOU use capital letters?  Most of us do not.  Why?   Generally speaking, the greater part of mankind is not that confident; we lack the self-love to think of ourselves in capital letters.

 

If you were around in the 1960’s, you probably were identified by the type of music you played.  Elvis Presley had brought hip grinding rock and roll to the masses but there were still those who enjoyed the last of the Big Band sound.  The end of the decade and Woodstock brought about a plethora of rock bands and in the next twenty years, they evolved into hard rock, heavy metal, and yes, even the teeny bop culture which then led to the pop culture and rap music.

 

One of those bands of the 1960’s began life as a group known as The Detours.  For this group of school chums who considered themselves misfits, music gave them an identity.  Their band name was much too similar to another group, Johnny and the Detours, though, so a new identity was needed.  The new name illustrated one of their most popular songs and gave an entire generation their identity.  We have The Who to thank for the essential theme of today’s post – Who are you?

 

“There’s a place where I know you walked; the love falls from the trees.  My heart is like a broken cup; I only feel right on my knees.”  Pete Townsend’s lyrics speak to all of us and they ask the same question I am asking you today.  “Who are you?”  More importantly, is your answer written in capital letters?

 

Someone once told me to live so that each night, when I washed my face, I was neither ashamed nor afraid to look in the mirror.  In other words, I should live so that I liked the reflection I saw in the mirror.  That is not always as easy for us as it should be.  Personal accountability can be a hard thing.  Life is not easy.

 

One of my favorite comments from last year was someone who stated they were descended from the Sami people.  I liked it because first, they obviously had read the post that day because it discussed heritage.  Secondly, I liked it because it taught me something; it taught me who the Sami were and are.  They are extraordinary.  The Sami people are the first indigenous culture of northern Scandinavia.  Once oppressed and their culture in danger of dying out completely, the Sami (who have also been called the Lapps) are now the strongest of all aboriginal cultures in the world.  Their original habitat includes countries we call Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia although they never really had their own sovereign state. 

 

Most of the world’s first families do not believe they own the land; they believe they are the caretakers of it.  Similarly, we do not own ourselves.  Much like the Sami, we are merely the caretakers of our bodies and regretfully, some of us do not do very well with that.  Nonetheless, we are the gardeners of our souls.  It is up to us to develop and determine who we are.  The really neat thing about gardens is that crops need to be rotated in order to reap the best harvests.  We are not locked into being just one thing; we are a beautiful tapestry of many things woven into one life.

 

“Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  Who are you; hu hu hu hu?  I really wanna know.”  I hope you can answer that question with capital letters, evidence that you love not only chocolate or music or a great book or sports team but for who you are.  That will, I believe, lead to you to believing in your ability to make the ordinary something more, something extraordinary.

Living the Ordinary

Living the Ordinary

Pentecost 117

 

All this series we have discussed Pentecost, the “ordinary time” as it is known in liturgical circles.  A great many people have asked if I was trying to sneak in some theology into what they felt was a spiritually-based blog.  This blog does discuss spirituality and no, I am not trying to put forth some hidden agenda which targets one specific religion.  I would describe this blog as more a philosophical discussion but let’s talk about all three of these and how they relate to our everyday, ordinary existence.

 

A recent trend has been to pit religion against spirituality.  There is good reason for this but one might ask: “Is it all a matter of semantics?”  The millennials of today and Generation “Y” live and breathe in part according to meme theory.  Many theologians blame it for the decline in their effectiveness.  What is “meme theory” and from where did it originate?  According to Wikipedia, a go-to reference for all millennials, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”  The word is an abbreviation of the word memetic, a theory of mental evolution based upon the work of Charles Darwin, coined by British evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins.  Opposing the religious culture, which most assuredly could be said to be based upon a meme, the term has become the battle cry of atheists who ironically, in their attempt to be different, have formed their own communion. 

 

The battle between philosophy and religion is not new.  After all, they both seek to answer questions about the world and mankind.  Religion attempts to do this through beliefs, faith, and revelation that is said to come from deities or one supreme deity/spirit.  Philosophy seeks to discover answers by way of reason and argument.  In the medieval time, some religious leaders often saw philosophers as threats and branded them heretics.  Eastern philosophy, however, developed alongside the philosophers of the time and Islam integrated philosophy with its theology.

 

Spiritual Healer Nancy Kern explains it this way: “Spirituality is a direct experience of God, by whatever name: Source, Spirit, the Light, All That Is, Allah, Shiva, Jesus. Religion is learned, passed on through families and cultural institutions, including churches. Religion is built around form, characterized by dogma, ritual and social interaction. Religious organizations are built around spiritual values, and also encompass politics, fund-raising and identity built on beliefs and practices. 

 

“Spirituality involves a direct experience of grace through a bodily knowing; no intermediary is required, no particular beliefs are necessary.  The ego cannot manage spiritual experiences or make them happen. Spiritual experiences range from beautiful to frightening, and may contradict religious and scientific beliefs.  Both religion and spirituality can involve prayer, contemplation and/or meditation. Both can be positive forces of healing from emotional and physical distress.  Spirituality can be encouraged through sensitivity to nature and the cultivation of awareness, gratitude and loving kindness. Religion can encourage and foster spirituality, but does not necessarily do so.”

 

The Native American culture believed that everything had a spirit, a soul that was to be respected.  AS such, everything had a life force.  Based upon the Asian continent from which these people originated more than thirty thousand years ago, their manner of living was based upon metaphysical questions answered by their spiritual and religious beliefs.  Eastern traditions were much more focused on concepts of virtue and how life was to be lived rather than stories of one or more deities. 

 

Philosophy seeks to rationalize reason for our actions.  Spirituality would ask if fulfillment could be achieved by the harming and enslavement of another and religion would quote love for one’s neighbor rather than plotting murder and mayhem.  In many of the instances of young people leaving a country of freedoms and opportunity, their reason is the same:  They felt disenfranchised. 

 

If we continue to make enemies of spirituality and religion, then we are looking at the future with very poor vision.  Today’s young adults live passionately and want a passionate faith.  Religion should be a living entity that embraces and uses their spirituality.  We must let each other breathe, embracing that which emboldens our spirit to live.

 

Confucius and Buddha faced life with philosophical leanings that have become spiritual bases for living for many.  Most major religions could also do the same.  We need to stop looking at things from an “either-or” perspective and start thinking how we can make a healthy salad of life – combining various and often different things together to work for the betterment of all living things. 

 

Judith Kelman once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  Many people think they know how the world is supposed to revolve.  As we enter the political seasons in countries all over the world, we are promised answers and new life.  Location is now the magic key nor is a change in leadership.  The answer lies with each of us.  It cannot be bought on a store shelf, found in a bigger house, snazzier vehicle, or even by hiding behind the walls of a religious entity. 

 

“Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it. . . . What frustrates us and robs our lives of joy is this absence of meaning. . . . Does our being alive matter?”  Harold Kushner asked this in his book “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t enough”. 

 

What makes our living and our thinking matter is us.  What gives life meaning is what we do with it.  The problem is not with our thinking, it is with our actions… or lack of actions.  The person who says he/she believes must be able to show evidence of it in his/her actions.  Life is not lived in a state of constant meditation or even reflection, though both have great value.  Life is lived in the daily grind.  Life is successfully lived when we embrace it and all that is living.  Life is ours for the living.  We just need to live it in a way that respects all and in such a way that encourages new life for everything and everyone.  When we do that, our existence will no longer simply be ordinary.  We will be living with intention in an extraordinary way that provides a better future for us all.

 

 

Together

Together

Pentecost 69

 

Last night the world came together as it does every two years.  This time it was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The Olympics are not without controversy and these Olympics are considered the yet another installment of the “modern” Olympics.  We think of mythology as something akin to fairy tales, imaginary happenings and yet, last night, the world came together as part of a dynasty that, according to legend, was started by the mythical hero Heracles, also known as Hercules.

 

It is considered Olympic history that these games were held from 776 BCE to 393 ACE, a span of over twelve hundred years.  Most believe the games had been ongoing for a period of time before 776 BCE but this is the first year that the games were documented.  The single event was a race run by a naked runner.  A cook by the name of Coebus ran the 192 meters/210 yards and was victorious. 

 

This year is a continuation of the games’ reboot in 1894, the idea of a Frenchman.  A child during the Franco-Prussian War in which France was defeated, Pierre de Coubertin believed the key to France’s recovery was in strong athletes.  While others had tried to revive the games abolished by the Emperor Theodosius, Coubertin was a nobleman with the resources to persevere.    He founded the sports organization Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) and two years later proposed reviving the Olympic Games.   

 

“Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally. It inspires me to touch upon another step I now propose and in it I shall ask that the help you have given me hitherto you will extend again, so that together we may attempt to realise [sic], upon a basis suitable to the conditions of our modern life, the splendid and beneficent task of reviving the Olympic Games.”  In 1892 Coubertin gave this speech which was not well received.  In true Olympic spirit, however, he repeated it two years later at a meeting he hosted with seventy delegates from other countries and was met with more success.

 

Last night the world came together once again, this time with ten athletes marching homeless.  Entering under the flag of the International Olympic Committee and without a country to sponsor them, these refugees illustrated the current state of the world.  They also embodied the Olympic spirit, a spirit that Coubertin felt would benefit his country.  Their spirit will benefit the world and last night brought us together as one mankind, one people.

 

The flag bearer of this delegation without homes was a female swimmer Yusra Mardini.  She and others escaped the conflict and genocide in her native Syria and arrived in Turkey.  From Turkey the sought to reach Greece by boat but the boat’s engine died partway across the dividing waters.  Yusra jumped out and swam, pulling the boat and seventeen other refugees.  This petite young woman reached the shores of Greece and her journey continued to Macedonia then Munich and eventually Berlin. 

 

Riding in overheated and overcrowded busses and walking distances that would tire a marathon runner after swimming an event equal to those the Olympic weight lifters will endure, Yusra Mardini held onto her dream.  This year the IOC announced it would allow refugee athletes to compete under their own International Olympic Committee flag.  Companies such as VISA offered to help these athletes reach Rio so that they could compete.

 

The Opening Ceremonies told the history of Brazil as many countries do when the world’s sports stage comes to their shores.  However, Rio showed a ceremony that focused not only on the past but the present and the future.  They gave each athlete a seed to plant as they entered the coliseum which was then planted for the future Athletes Forest.  Nature has supported us and our life on this planet and while current emissions are putting such support in jeopardy, Rio 2016 planted seeds for the future.

 

The athletes are winners by virtue of trying but Rio showed us we can all be winners when we come together and work for the real meanings of life.  Coubertin believed  that the future was possible. “Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally.”  He believed the future was in the hands of those who ran a fair race in communion with all.  Yusra Mardini said it another way when asked about VISA’s corporate sponsorship.  “I think Visa is sending a message” that we “are all human in the end”.

 

We are all human in the end.  Together was can accomplish great things.  Together we can make an ordinary present into an extraordinary future.  With preparation, forethought and effort, we can create a better tomorrow together.