Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Greek Ideal

Fortunately the night passed with no riots, just a lot of car beeping and hollering. I have a difficult time understanding not only the behaviour of the "group mind" of crowds, but also team sports. I always excelled at individual sports such as gymnastics, diving, track and field and wrestling, but was lousy at all the team sports. My father loved hockey, baseball and football, and I used to tease him mercilessly over it. Even at 12 years old.

I pointed out to my dad (a minister) the violence of group sports; its parallel associations to war strategy; and how dull it is to look at. I asked him, "How could you be a minister and watch it, and profess to teach peacefulness, love and cooperation? Where's the brotherly love in it?" He didn't have an answer for me.

Wouldn't you rather watch the artistry of gymnastics and diving (and amazing bodies), or the sexual suggestiveness of wrestling (crotch grabbing, body-to-body action); or the sweaty heroic determination of track and field? There's no violence in it. Instead it's the individual against himself, attempting to achieve his best, through physical and mental discipline. Sometimes in gymnastics there was a guy on my team who attempted to intimidate and berate me as not being as good as him. I hated that. I wasn't out to prove that I was better than someone. I was out to see how I could beat my own limitations. I wasn't competing against others. I was competing against myself. I usually was better than him; maybe that made him jealous.

My hero was Nadia Comaneci. Her intense focus on her craft, her disregard for the crowd and other team mates and her fierce determination to do her work perfectly was inspiring. She got not only the first perfect score - she had 7 of them. She was a machine. When the crowd went wild for her, she didn't respond, or even smile in reaction. She wasn't doing it for the crowd, her team mates, her coach, or anyone but herself. When she was interviewed by gushing reporters, she appeared sullen and disinterested. Of course she became very screwed up later in life from suppressing her emotions and being a perfectionist. Nevertheless, she seemed to me to represent the Greek athletic ideal of sport.

Greg Louganis was another incredible inspiration. I've never seen such artistry in diving since. His entire body expressed something beautiful as he stretched, rotated, pointed. I remember him hitting his head on the high board during the Olympics (doing an inward dive of course), and seeing the blood in the water. I was horrified. And then he got up on the high board and did his next dive of three, and did it perfectly, without fear. He was heroic and entirely focussed on nothing but doing his art. Little did we know until later that he was HIV+ and abused as a child.

In my humble opinion, hockey, baseball, football and soccer players can't measure up, unless you measure them by qualities other than artistry, grace and Greek ideals. They seem more Roman in comparison. In one of my past life regressions I was a young Roman who studied Greek athletics.

A flashback: I was in gymnastics practice, talking with the girls. They were always more friendly and non-competitive than the men, so I enjoyed hanging out with them. I was nervous about my upcoming competition and told them. One hot babe told me, "All you've got to do is... when you go up to the judges, raise your hand in salutation to them, give them a huge smile, and then do your event." I tried it. I was at the event. It was my turn for the pommel horse (the event I won), and sitting in front of me were some non-impressed, non-smiling, non-friendly and jaded adult people, ready to find fault with me. I felt so intimidated. The last thing I felt like doing was smiling at them. But I raised my hand, in that gymnastic way, and flashed them a huge smile, full of joy. They didn't respond or smile back. I freaked out and felt like an idiot. Embarrassed, I looked away quickly and then pommelled that horse with all the fear and idiocy I felt by following the girls advice. When it was over I didn't even remember what happened. When the numbers came up I was floored. And I won! I'm not sure if it was the confidence I exuded in my smile, or if it was the intensely awkward energy I threw into the event that helped me to win it - my worst event. But when I saw her (the advice-giver) during our next practice, I told her what happened, and she threw her long arms around me (she was very tall), picked me up and spinned me around with glee.

I got my haircut today! It's nice and short, with a messy look. Admission: I colour my hair. I have since I was 20. I had dark brown hair as a child, and now it's a #7, dark blond. My stylist brought out her hair swatches and matched it. I think I look so washed out with such a light hair colour, so I always colour my hair and eyebrows a dark brown. It gives me a much more dramatic look, and looks better with brown eyes. Maybe I'm more Danish than I think.

And tomorrow morning I have a tanning appointment. I'm working toward feeling like going out and socializing! And maybe meeting my Greek ideal.