Monday, February 15, 2010

The Real Value of Olympic Gold Medals

Bilodeau won Olympic Gold and I am celebrating! He is the first Canadian olympic gold winner to do so in Canada... I cannot imagine how he feels but I know that I am there with him both in pride and in joy for his accomplishment. There are two main feelings this elicits for me: 1. national pride and what I suspect is the ultimate in belongingness that he must be feeling accomplishing this feat on home ground; and 2. joy at the groundedness with which he humbly accepts his accomplishment -- attributing his success to his teammates and to his brother who suffers from cerebral palsy and who will never have the opportunity to strive physically for the kinds of challenges Alexandre can.

On the first, national pride: this is a strange one to explain for someone who considers herself fairly international. I have previously spoken of the globalization of our myriad communities into a planetary amalgam and I sense its impact on my very international identity. Yet, there is no denying the welling up of emotion at the utter triumph of any individual working their 'b...' off and getting that which is so fitting and deserved on the one hand, nor the over the top joy that he is a fellow national. Canada does feel like a tribe that has adopted me and one can feel a true debt to countries that decide to accept one after birth in a different country because they do have the choice of rejecting you when you apply for citizenship. But it is not just that. Canadians don't gloat... they don't shout their accomplishments from the rooftops because of some aspect of their cultivated nature (it appears to be a bit more ingrained that culture). Canadians tend to accept accomplishment and triumph in an understated way and let others rejoice with them without making them jealous. They are simply sophisticated and classy in that sense, for which they are of course, loved, globally. There is no country on earth that will not accept and adopt Canadians as their own because of this quality... unless of course the people are completely crazy. In fact Americans even adopt Canada and Canadians, by extending their mantle to that country everyday.

Second, perhaps even more poignant is Alexandre Bilodeau's balanced view of his accomplishment in light of a different perspective. His brother, who suffers from cerebral palsy is not necessarily less fortunate than he, but he will certainly not have the opportunity to ski and feel what his brother feels when he is out there on skis. This is not to say that he cannot feel the focus of working hard or 'zoning'. But there is so much that his brother gains today in addition to his personal feelings performing his sport. He gains the recognition of his peers, the admiration of his country and its citizens along with those of the world. Alexandre is on the top of the world in his sport and right now all eyes are upon him.

However, even as his triumph is buoyed by the energy of the world's focus upon him, he is able to remain balanced by the support provided to him by his brother, who he rightly wants to bring on this journey of triumph with him. Family is after all the other level of belonging and support without which our success would be greatly challenged. Family starts it all and sometimes specific family members -- often siblings, spouses, and certainly supportive parents can make a world of difference between success and failure in our ventures, projects, and goals, as much as we may claim to rely entirely on ourselves.

What this gold medal represents is the gamut of emotion each of us engages in our quest for something good and fantastic to our imaginations but still allowed into our dreamworlds. That treasure chest on the pirate ship, paradise island, the perfect house or car, but even more accurate, writing the perfect story, painting the vision imprinted on the heart, meeting the one meant for you alone and keeping him/her, making that elusive but magnificently huge deal, landing that big case and 'winning it', or for you sports buffs, the perfectly hit 9 or 18 holes in the perfect or 'good enough' circumstances to be perfect, never mind the perfect tennis game or set, just the perfect few ground strokes (boy, I set that bar low!)...etc. We know that each and any of these objects or goals is not attainable without a great deal of struggle, years of hard work and preparation to get there and having a chance at shooting for that dream come true. Each one of us has wanted it at one time or another. Some of us have given up along the way. Some of us have sacrificed too much to get there and realized they shot for the wrong dream. Some of us still keep trying and will never surrender.

If there is anything the Olympics and the yearning they engender for those gold medal moments stand for, it is the hope that each of us can fulfill our own spirit; that each of us can shoot for that quest for all that is good in us and triumph just as it has in Alexandre Bilodeau attaining with it that sense of family, national, and global belonging, acceptance, and recognition! Even when not all of it can be perfect, the Olympics can reassure each of us that we deserve to complete the true potential of our essence and fulfill our dreams!

-- GDK