Just a short while ago I was watching part of the Olympic opening ceremonies in London. It wasn’t until I was back in my bedroom it dawned on me that these games every two years are more than just a show of sports and athleticism, more than just a fancy parade of nations vying for medals and recognition–they’re more than all of this. They’re something to be thankful for.
If you open a newspaper, turn on the TV, or in my case, load an app, you’ll see the world in chaos in every direction. The global economy is cracking. There are rebellions and oppression. There are genocides and epidemics, shootings and sex scandals. Nothing is in order–or the order it is in is not the order we want.
And nothing seems to be heading up hill.
Then the Olympics begin. In the segment I watched, childhood nightmares rose up from the ground and were defeated by dreams falling in from the heavens. It was a hopeful message, a reminder that somewhere inside of us, some time long ago or just yesterday, we were innocent like these children jumping on their glowing trampoline beds–we had both dreams and nightmares, hopes and fears.
When we grew up, we held onto the wrong ones.
No adult life seems complete without its share of misery. We forge our fears with our own hands and we drive stakes into the dreams of our youth, opting instead to “play the game” and “settle down.” We forget that drive for greatness, that aspiration toward inspiration, the energy and the amazement, the wonder that makes childhood precious and invaluable. We succumb to the allure of the dollar and the chains it carries. We do not harvest happiness from money, but we realize that without it, its pricelessness becomes unaffordable.
The Olympics, however, offer us reprieve. We witness athletes achieving their dreams. We witness the power and impressiveness of humanity, our willpower, our drive, our potential and the myriad ways our anatomy can be trained, conditioned, and mastered in displays of twirling dives, impossible jumps, and sportsmanship. Through the mirror neurons in our brains, for these measured days, we too can experience the thrill and the satisfaction of all our hopes and dreams and aspirations converging in a single moment of united victory.
What’s more is that this ceases to be a solely American activity. The world community, so frequently in the news only for its conflicts, is now broadcast worldwide in a high-definition display of its ability to set aside feuds and rebellions and animosity and hatred all for the sake of a game. Or a number of games, really. But all our angst is transformed into friendly sport. It brings to mind playing volleyball and ultimate Frisbee with my friends. Didn’t matter where we came from or who won, who lost–for those few moments, gasping for breath and covered in sweat, we were all the same, having fun, enjoying each other for the mere pleasure of how we fit together.
For the next few days, the world will feel the same.
In the end, we’ll count the number of medals and the number of new records broken and focus on the controversies as opposed to the stories, but until then, we’re united. Our hands are holding onto each others’ and like this we will march toward that flame shining in the distance. Only when our chain breaks will the world return.
Someday I wish we’ll be like this every day. Someday I hope all the violence and senseless hatred in the world will dissipate until only love and laughter remain. Someday I dream of being able to walk around the world with no fear of borders or barriers, everyone welcoming, inclusive, extending their hands to every guest.
Maybe someday. Until then, we play.