What All the Fuss is About

"Ilanaaq the ikshuk" was the main mascot for the '10 Winter Olympics.

"Ilanaaq the ikshuk" was the main mascot for this year's Winter Olympics.

I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the Winter Olympics.  I’ve honestly tried.  I can see the appeal in some winter sports.  I had a lot of friends who loved hockey.  Personally, I could barely stay upright on skates, so it wasn’t really my thing, but I can see how some people like it.  Skiing for speed I guess I could kind of understand.  Maybe.  That’s about it though.  The drama doesn’t get to me – turned the dial every time I heard something about Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso arguing over who was more popular.  Patriotism I get, but not when we’re dominating Ethiopia in freestyle skiing.  And I flat out absolutely do not get the “skeleton”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld9NkqCN1KI Apparently 48 people on the planet were insane enough to agree to do this, making them, by default, “the best in the world.”  I guess I fail to see how this should be a part of the prestigious Olympics any more than “snow ball fighting”, “snow angels”, or “shove your younger brother’s head into a snow bank till he screams for mom”. 

Perhaps I’m just bitter.  While growing up, the Winter Olympics to me meant 2 straight weeks of nothing but figure skating on TV.  My mom LOVED the Winter Olympics.  Most of all, my mom LOVED the opening and closing ceremonies, which I always found more bizarre and terrifying than intriguing (still do) and figure skating (I knew way more about Brian Boitano and Viktor Petrenko than I’d asked for).  So, today, the Winter Olympics still mean about the same thing — loss of quality tv programs, events I don’t understand, and a lot of fuss about nothing.  In fact, the only thing that I’ve ever truly enjoyed about them is the late John Candy’s 1993 tear-jerker Cool Runnings (man, that’s what movies are all about).   

Even the Vancouver Olympics 2010 mascot seems symbolic to me of a waste of time.  “Ilanaaq”, which means “friend” in Inuit, is supposed to be an emblem of an ikshuk, which were massive stone guideposts that early Canadians set up for navigation purposes.  I’m not sure why convenient wooden signs that would have saved many Inuit backs wouldn’t have done the trick. 

I can see some of the appeal to the Olympics.  We all have our own specific and particular interests.  It’s one of the things that makes humans so fascinating.  But, am I the only one who feels that the Winter Olympics, to some degree, is WAY overhyped and for that matter, WAY over prepared for? 

While questioning the overall value of the Winter Olympics, the preparation and dedication of the athletes is something that I don’t question.  When you hear stories about Olympians having no social lives growing up – not having friends other than coaches, not going to prom, not ever sleeping in on a Saturday, not ever eating a donut because it doesn’t fit into the training regimen – you don’t really question their dedication and work ethic.  That commitment, indeed, is admirable.  What I do question, however, is whether or not it’s truly worth all the fuss.  Your event comes once every four years.  Maybe you’re good enough to make it to the Olympics, but most aren’t.  Even the best athletes can compete at maybe a max of 3 Olympics.  Was that really worth giving up so much of life for?

The thought of being so narrowly focused on one thing to the exclusion and avoidance of other things leads me to an important spiritual understanding.  Many in the world feel that the Christian faith is just too confining.  At the very least it often means giving up several hours of sleep on Sunday morning and with it, perhaps some subsequent partying on Saturday evening.  It also might mean financial loss.  “After all, don’t those people in the Bible give up 10% of all their income to God?”  It might mean some loss of wild promiscuity, debauchery, entertainment, and in general, some “good times.”  Finally, perhaps most difficult, it would mean the loss of who ultimately calls the shots in my life.  I’m now playing by someone else’s rules, not my own.  Does so much dedication to such a narrow thing really seem worth it?

To the person that feels this way about Christianity (even though they more often than not won’t verbalize it like that), I guess I’d ask the same question back in return – is it worth all the fuss?  This life, that is.  The Bible suggests that this life is 70 or 80 years, but that the next life (whether in heaven or hell) is eternal.  Think about that timeframe comparison.  This life is a blink in a movie, it’s an atom in a galaxy, it’s a tear in an ocean compared to the next one.  Don’t get me wrong, this life is important, but if the Bible is right about afterlife, then the most important thing for me in this life is to responsibly prepare for the next one.   And the laws of wise investment suggest I should not put all my eggs in this troubled and temporary world’s basket.  Does so much dedication to happiness at all costs and “living in the now” really seem worth it in the big picture of life, when you properly include the notion of eternal existence?

Jesus makes a strong statement towards dedicating ourselves to an eternal perspective in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus is essentially saying here, “This place (earth) is so temporary.  And it can be painful, disappointing, and disenchanting.  Is this really all that you want to live for, especially when living in it leads to eternal sadness?  Follow me and I’ll show you what life is all about.  We’ll live like kings in the treasures of heaven.”  And how do we go about “storing up” these heavenly treasures?  A good starting point is probably to start dedicating ourselves to not worrying so much about the earthly ones.  Think bigger.  Think better.  Believe that Jesus took your sins away on the cross.  Allow his love and will to have a home in your heart.  Know that gold medals are earthly glory, but that a Golden Jerusalem, heavenly glory, is what God has in store for you.

One thought on “What All the Fuss is About

  1. A comment was made yesterday, which led to a series of emails back and forth regarding the article for clarification. I decided to summarize the discussion here:

    Someone wanted to know how I could call the Winter Olympics “bad TV” when there’s so much sex and violence on in primetime and mentioned how the Winter Olympics was one of the things she allowed her grandchildren to watch in primetime.

    I responded by saying that I certainly wasn’t suggesting that there was anything wrong with the Winter Olympics, only that it wasn’t my particular “cup of tea” and that we have freedom in such choices and preferences. I was simply using the Winter Olympics and the incredible dedication of the athletes as an illustration to a spiritual point. I would concur that there is an unfortunate abundance of sex & violence on TV and that I wasn’t in any way trying to suggest that that type of programming was a better alternative to the Winter Olympics – not where the article was intended to go, although I’d be happy to write an article on how TV has digressed in the past 20 years – stopped holding my breath for that Full House reunion special a long time ago.

    This individual who commented also mentioned that she found the opening/closing ceremonies “spectacular” rather than bizarre. I confirmed that many/most would probably agree with her assessment. Again, she’s free to feel that way. However, for me, these are the things (like the new Alice in Wonderland) that nightmares are made out of 🙂 – my own personal issue. I included in my email a clip of the last Olympics ceremony opening that I vowed to ever watch — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9gxXNGSn7s. Impressive. Yes. But you decide – a little creepy or not???

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