As I watched the rare “super moon” eclipse last night, I felt lucky to be able to catch such a unique spectacle on a clear night. Looking up into the night sky, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe that stemmed from the recognition of my place in the cosmos, on this planet, in a solar system on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, in an infinite universe. Then inevitably, I looked back down at the ground, and again saw the familiar dirt below my feet. There was a feeling of profound confusion as I again struggled to come to terms with the fact that I will one day have to give my body back to the Earth from which it came.
Can you see nature at work behind our nature? It’s obvious. Here is a fresh perspective on a constantly mutating world. Perhaps it is one that is both timeless and new. Many ancient cultures sought to express nature with the powerful image a snake eating it’s tail, but as fast as it eats the tail it grows.
Trinidad and Tobago is a relatively new country, with a fresh and unique culture that is a novel expression of its diverse population and interesting history. Culture is measured by how well a society is able to incorporate its unique art into daily life. In T&T, we are losing ours because we don’t value expressions of it until they are celebrated abroad first; we desperately need validation from outside. Contrast this against the richness of Cuban culture for example.
It was Sunday, and so I went like a good midwestern consumer, to seek fulfilment in material things. There was a bulb that needed to be replaced in a lamp that I had recently purchased, to read a book that I had just bought, in the studio apartment that I had just rented. This was an unusual quest for a former minimalist nomad, who for the past few years had been living out of a suitcase containing a total of 52 pounds of worldly belongings.
Eye don’t mind, literally. Well, most of the time. To me, it’s just the mind and no longer my mind. I can lose it by keeping up with where my attention is shifting to, but it always comes back. Unless watched carefully the mind will sneak up on me, pull me in, and consume me before I even know what’s happening. There is so much talk about mindfulness these days; I want to talk about mindlessness.
There is something to be said for having no other option but to succeed. Consider a situation in which success is not the most important thing, but the only thing. That’s true commitment. It’s rare, but when recognised it demands my respect.
Last Thursday, August 5, marked exactly one year until the beginning of the Games of the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For a few minutes the media’s attention was focused on the athletes. National pride swelled as past glory was remembered and the future was looked to with hopeful anticipation. And then it was quickly on to other news.
“When you go out there tonight and find yourself under the bright lights, look down at the pool. Pay attention to the glassy surface of the water. Notice its reflection and smoothness, without even so much as a ripple there to impede you. Imagine that this calm body of water stretches out over a distant horizon.
All eyes are fixed on the athletes as they walk out. Some seem to be trying to hide inside themselves, while a couple grow and seem to deliberately stand a little taller and wider. The whole atmosphere is electric, charged with tense anticipation; even the spectators feel it. A wave of nervous energy spreads out through everyone and continues building to a crescendo as the looming start of the much anticipated main event approaches.
I have a very important decision to make tonight about my future, and by the time I am finished with this I intend to have made the right choice with no regrets in an uncontrived, natural way.
The Pan Am Games are over now. I did what I intended to do. The outcome could not have pleased me more, especially after crucial time off and a short season of just four months of training. Since my return to the pool in March, I have taken a long-term view on things. However, the most important competition is always the next one, which brings me to the decision I must imminently make.
I was there, but yet I wasn’t there. My arm threw itself over the lane rope, while my feet reflexively kicked up so that my mouth remained above the surging waves that followed me into the wall. It took a few seconds of just breathing, before my fading tunnel vision opened up again and my senses began to fully return.
There are no shortcuts to long-term development. Sport like anything else in life is an amalgamation of skills. The way to proficiency must be long, winding and difficult. To take a straight path would be to cheat yourself of precious experience. While some things can be taught, the most valuable lessons are only learnt first hand; the hard way.
True wisdom has to be your own, it can’t be someone else’s. Much in the same way that the proverbial borrowed plume never grows. I will probably never know as much about anything else in my life as I do about competitive swimming. For what it’s worth, in this very narrow esoteric scope, I can claim to be an expert. Afloat, in this amniotic dream, I have swum along with the current of life that has flowed up and down, through countless competitive swimming races all over the globe for over 26 years.
Timing is everything in life. Fate is decided by the most temperamental fractions of time that seem to fly by with ever increasing speed, the more they are subdivided in an effort to be held on to. Yet, they arise out of the ever new and forgiving present. It’s interesting to imagine how our lives might have been different, had it not been for those fateful but infinitesimal, merciful or cruel fractions of a second.
No where else is this fascinating relationship between time and causality more obvious than in sport. As we watch, in front of us on the grandest stages of the world’s greatest sporting events, hundredths of a second decide the outcome of competitions that determine the fate of sporting careers and futures of lives.
What goes around, comes around. We have seen this kind of political drama before. It’s been going round and round for thousands of years. Governments revolve in a cycle; it’s still as true today, as it ever was in the ancient Greek city states. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Plato and Aristotle were some of the first to recognise the cycle, but it was Polybius, the Greek historian who gave us profound insight into the matter. In summary of the classical definition, according to Polybius, throughout history there has been a revolving cycle of different types of governments, with each stage in the cycle gradually ushering in the next.
Where the history books open to the beginning of international sport as we know it, with the first modern Olympiad on the cusp of the twentieth century in 1896, the pages lie sandwiched between a series of ever increasingly more violent episodes.
At this time nationalistic furor seemed to be building towards a crescendo as the industrialised western nations competed greedily for control of people and resources in the zero sum game of world domination; and in Baron Pierre De Coubertin’s Olympic games. This was an an age when the dark side of human nature was about to reach its most destructive potential.
It was my quest for truth that drove me in. The water was cold, and the shock it gave to my system was simultaneously traumatic and invigorating. I worried about the way that I had just laboured to get moving. The first few hundred metres almost always felt stiff and sore, I reminded myself in an effort to inject some positivity.
We see the photos you share; those empty champagne bottles, your business class seat, you with those brand name accessories, your expensive car, the myriad of scenes in which you flash those exact same practiced affectations of ecstatic glee. Ok we get it, you look successful. There you are again, you’re doing so well, undoubtedly a significant special person worth knowing. Congratulations. You appear happy.
here was still hope! The refusal of my fellow semi-finalists to race without me, provided the chance I needed to tear off my ripped “Jaked” body suit and frantically struggle into the outdated bodysuit that I had fatefully brought with me as a back up.
That year it was all about the latest bodysuit. For the arms race that swimming had become, you simply had to had to have it. So, I joined the line to get one, along with most of the other swimmers from developing nations without suit sponsors. The sense of awe and the absolute power of a totalitarian state that Rome’s Foro Italico was designed to convey in the 1930’s, seemed intimidating and surreal as a desperate winding column of mostly dark skinned youths huddled on the floor against the wall stretching into its immense marble interior.
If we in T&T aren’t going to live long, we absolutely owe it to ourselves to maximise our time on this earth and live well. I am not necessarily saying quit your miserable job just yet, leaving you out on the street, but start to research, develop and make steps towards eventually finding your bliss.
What good is being happy if you don’t know you are unhappy? However having experienced this unhappiness in the past you will have the ultimate pleasure of being happy, while knowing that you are happy. You need to get on good terms with your own being.