Monday, March 1, 2010

The Olympics

The 2010 Winter Olympics finished yesterday in Vancouver. The medals have been handed out, the parties are over and everyone is leaving the city- so many people in fact that the train out to the airport is running 24 hours a day and it's recommended that you get to the airport 4 hours early for your flight. And then the Paralympics begin.

The Olympics is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world- the most elite athletes in their sport come to the Olympics to show off their skills and compete against the other elites, sometimes with only hundredths of a second separating first from seventh on a given day. People come from everywhere to see these athletes compete- it's a prestigious event to be able to be at. Countries and companies put their leaders up in luxury hotels, take them to luxury restaurants and hand out tickets to the best events. The very best tickets - in terms of being the most expensive and most prestigious- are to the men’s gold medal hockey game. The people who can attend that game are the people that society has lifted up on to the social pedestal- they’re most likely to be executives of Olympic corporate sponsors, other executives, celebrities, and people who can simply afford to pay the high prices for the tickets. They are the people with the material wealth that a ton of people aspire to. Similarly, the athletes playing in the game are professional athletes paid millions of dollars a season- they're the stars who every hockey-playing kid aspires to be.

In contrast, the masses don't generally aspire to be a Paralympic athlete and having tickets to the Paralympics probably isn't going to impress the guy with the Rolls Royce. While these aren't the most prestigious tickets, they can be the most inspiring. It's a big deal to see someone who's lost the ovarian lottery do what they are able to do given the limitations they had no control over. That kind of experience gives you something that can't be measured on the material spectrum- like where your tickets are and what restaurant you're at can.

This is an analogy for how to live your life- instead of chasing more and more material wealth, look for deeper meaning and experiences that make you happier than moving up from a C-class Mercedes to an S-class Mercedes. Deeper meaning is much more satisfying but the things that produce it are much less concrete and comparable than possessions and money. Judging other people based on money and possessions makes for an easy comparison- it's a shortcut which I think is a big part of why it's such an easy trap to fall in to.

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