Olympic Moments


This is not the week to decide to cut back on time spent in front of the TV.

Along with several billion people around the world, I’m hooked on watching the Olympics. I’m not in total Couch Potato mode, but the TV stays on. As I go about my business, passing through the living room to catch a look at the screen, sometimes I just have to sit down and watch for awhile. It really doesn’t matter what’s on. Swimming, cycling, beach volleyball, and basketball this weekend have all been inspiring and plain good fun.

The highlight for me is always the Opening Ceremonies. Even when they are bad, or incomprehensible (what WERE they thinking in Athens?), they are still fascinating. The opening ceremonies last Friday evening were amazing. Two-thousand-and-eight dancers, 2,008 drummers, 2008 boxes — the choreography extended to the magnificent fireworks, coordinated all over town, all with exquisite and astonishing precision. That many people, moving in perfect unison, as if with one mind, as one organism, struck deep emotional and symbolic chords throughout the world, and across cultures.

The theme that has me captivated is Attention to Detail. From an engineering and technology perspective, think of all the LED screens, the cables, the switches, the computer networks employed to create the special effects and coordinate the entire operation, from the performance to the broadcast. From an artistic perspective, each performer had to be totally committed to the creative director’s vision, executing it as if he (or she) were a soloist. All the participants were in agreement for the embodiment — the manifestation — of ideas into action, into an artistic, philosophical, political, athletic, musical, mathematical, technological marvel. Right down to the start time: 8:08 PM, on 08/08/2008. Auspicious indeed.

If you’ve ever been in a marching band, then you know how hard it is to get a bunch of people all doing the same thing. Band members are not dancers: they play instruments and walk, or march, all together. If your legs are long, and you’re standing next to someone whose legs are short, you both have to adjust your stride so that each step, from each person, is exactly the same length, every time. Then, you have to play the music correctly too, probably from memory. The Olympic Opening Ceremonies were the marching band phenomenon, increased in complexity by several exponential levels. The “bird’s eye view” from high atop the Bird’s Nest Stadium offered a vista of perfect spacing, perfect coordination, perfect memory of the routine, and perfect technical support. It was beautiful, and inspiring, a blend of ancient and modern, the past and the future meeting in each detail. I think of the level of self-awareness of each performer, able to do his best, and also adapt the size and scope of each movement so as to fit into the Big Picture.

When you think of “Olympic Qualities,” what comes to mind? Is it strength, endurance, agility, speed, power, persistence, or skill? Surely, it’s all of these. I’d like to think that awareness is also an essential ingredient in the making of a champion. How much of any element is too much, too little, just right? How do you get perfect balance, perfect velocity, perfect timing, a perfect landing? How do you win the audience? Awareness of self is the first step toward improvement, or excellence, in anything you attempt. Moshe Feldenkrais knew that awareness of self also leads to awareness of others, and one’s surroundings — the environment in which you find yourself. Awareness, commitment, and harmony lead to a good outcome for all.

Awareness can help you to be a champion, even in the little corner of the world where you are. What details are asking for your attention?

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