The Missing Interview … August 14, 2012

  • Loser — Part 1
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During the Olympics, when they had an interview with visitors to London about the various styles of fish and chips, you realized that they had reached the end of possibilities for making the event any more marketable. After all, seventeen days is a long time. Even when you’re talking about athletes from 204 nations converging on a single city in an action of sporting pleasure and worldwide unity, it still loses some of its glimmer when you cross about twelve days–especially when you consider the rewards system.

Because in the midst of all that coverage, there are many interviews with many people who are participating and later winning in the games. I listened to them intently and like everyone else, was deeply impressed with those athletes who won gold medals, especially in multiples. I found it somewhat interesting when they would have a conversation with a particular sportsman from a small nation who won a silver medal which ended up being the only one his country acquired.

But the obvious missing interview was the discourse with the individual who, through much effort and training, was able to win four bronze medals.

A set of 1998 Winter Olympics medals on displa...

A set of 1998 Winter Olympics medals on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, for some reason or another, NBC, which certainly became desperate for feature stories, still did not consider a third-place finisher who had achieved it several times to be worthy of air time. Perhaps the Olympics was the beginning of the notion that prizes should be given not only to the winner, but also to those who come close.I’m sure I would feel differently if I was an athlete at the Olympic Village, but somehow or another, bronze leaves me cold. I’m not particularly thrilled with silver. And I know that I’m not alone here. Because even though they do tally the silver and bronze medals, it is worse than an afterthought, but rather, a necessity brought to our attention because the Olympic Committee decided to offer also-ran prizes.

Yes–the missing interview is with that guy or gal who won the most bronze medals. It’s just difficult to celebrate their position. It would be similar to attending a party of an individual who lost on Jeopardy! who decided to be festive by inviting all of his friends to his house to indulge in enjoying the Rice-a-Roni he got for third prize. It leaves something to be desired.

It’s not that I’m saying that people who come in third in the Olympics are mediocre. It’s just that we need to stop trying to make people feel that they have achieved what they really haven’t. All of us are trying to escape self-deception, and it doesn’t help when the world around us encourages it.

If you won a bronze medal, you’ve really lost. Maybe you came to London to win bronze. I guess that’s possible. But somewhere along the line in your training, even if you were pursuing third place, you would have a particularly good day of exercise and begin to believe that first place was possible–so therefore, disappointment is inevitable.

The only thing we all share in common is that we’re all, at one time or another, losers.

In other words, we lose. There are three deadly reactions to losing that eliminate us from further human contact: (1) anger–an abstract sense that life sucks and is not fair; (2) excuses–going through a litany of possible explanations of why you didn’t get gold; and (3) resignation–“oh, well, it was just never meant to be” or worse yet, “it was just God‘s will.” All three of those positions drive other human beings away like an odor hanging in the air from a busted port-a-potty.

What do you do when you’ve got five bronze medals that accurately telegraph to the world that you’re a loser?

1. Be grateful you’re healthy. In the pursuit of gold, you became a phenomenal physical specimen. Amazing. You are in a tiny percentile.

2. Realize that you got to play with the best. There is a difference between winning first place at your high school talent show and coming in third on American Idol. The difference is that you have a clear understanding of what it means to bark with the top dogs.

3. Know that you got to be part of something great. For the rest of your life you will get to say that you competed in the Olympics. Now, there’s always some jerk who will ask you if you won any medals. After about a year, bronze will start sounding better and better.

4. You learned what you can do and what you can’t. The beginning to all future success is putting your abilities to the test and finding out where you leak. You can plug the leaks or you can avoid exposing them. Either way, you’ve got information.

5. You can take the adventure and rather than experiencing humiliation, mature it into humility. When we are not ashamed of what we’ve done, we can be honest about our place in life. It gives us a humility that makes us attractive to our fellow-travelers. It is a benefit you receive only when you don’t win the gold.

So there you go. Even though there was a missing interview with that bronze champion, he or she will come out of the experience having been surrounded by the same intensity, beauty, power, fellowship and pageantry as all those who won gold.

It’s just a matter of taking the best from every experience and using it to increase your next possibility.

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Super-ag-nuts … July 22, 2012

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I should never have accepted the invitation. Sometimes I just have trouble saying no.

A very religious friend of mine invited me to come to lunch and meet his self-proclaimed agnostic brother. I know the aspiration of my ardent-zealot-religious comrade was that somehow I would be able to offer some sort of “smart” presentation of the gospel which would win over his brother, who was moving more each and every day towards complete atheism.

The luncheon started off all right, although a bit awkward, until my God-bud felt it was time to move into more supernatural topics and broached the subject of the divine with his less-than-willing family member. What ensued was a battle of wills, which had been in full swing for many years. It also became obvious to me that one of the brothers thought he was saved and the other one thought he was smart.

The one who thought he was smart equally believed that he would lose his entire brain if he was fully exposed to salvation, and the one who was saved was convinced that the introduction of too much knowledge could possibly dissolve any faith in God whatsoever.

I left that day feeling very unfulfilled and not certain where I fit in–because I am not a superstitious religious person. I don’t spend much time thinking about Jonah and the whale nor any one of the particular horsemen of the Apocalypse. I am also by no means an agnostic. There’s just too much flow of the Spirit and needfulness for God in our lives for any one of us to dismiss His creative presence merely to maintain a social strata of intellectual superiority.

The superstition of religion causes people to say, “I am afraid I am not pleasing to God,” which causes the agnostic to retort, “I think pleasing God makes me afraid.”

But a new phenomenon has now come onto the scene. People who formerly were involved in spirituality, which deteriorated into religion and eventually became mere superstition, have now been infected with a bit of agnosticism.

They are everywhere. They have just enough Bible in them to maintain a dangerous dose of superstition and a growing amount of agnosticism, which depresses them with the lack of God in their lives–similar to the temperament of a twelve-year-old kid after the first Christmas without Santa.

So just as a superstitious person believes he doesn’t please God and the agnostic thinks that pleasing God makes one afraid, this new group, which I have dubbed the super-ag-nuts, ends up trying to please everybody because they’re afraid. Do you see what I mean?

Because spirituality failed to maintain the integrity of its message, the superstition of religion took over the sanctuary and encouraged agnosticism, which has produced super-ag-nuts.

For instance, superstition says, “I want to go to heaven–because I don’t want to go to hell.”  The agnostic says, “I hate the idea of hell, so I reject heaven.” So this new super-ag-nuts philosophy blends the two and ends up with the assertion, “I am not sure if there’s a heaven or a hell, so I’m scared to die.”

It is the super-ag-nuts who are so politically motivated in our society. Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, they have lost all hope in their faith and are looking for a political solution here on earth to remedy their disappointment. The super-ag-nuts have a form of godliness but have begun to deny the power of it, creating such a boring relationship with the heavenly Father that they, themselves, yearn for an excuse to be absent from worship services.

The super-ag-nuts are the ones who have found pet Bible verses and use them as a reason to advance a cause rather than using the cause to advance reasonableness. It is the super-ag-nuts who foster prejudices using the scapegoat of Godliness, alienating  certain groups from being included, even though Jesus was intent on establishing that no one is better than anyone else.

The superstition of religion teaches that in theory we should love people, but it’s really okay not to like them. Agnostics, on the other hand, are very suspicious of people individually, but will boldly tell you of their love for humanity. It has caused this new generation of super-ag-nuts to focus on family and friends, hoping that will be enough in the eyes of God.

I’ve always hated superstition. Honestly, agnosticism kind of makes me laugh. But when you blend superstition and agnosticism together, you get a belief system without joy. And what could possibly be the reason for seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness if all these things were NOT going to be added unto us? If we weren’t going to end up more content? If we weren’t going to become more loving? If we fail to multiply our talents? If we maintain our dreary outlook on life instead of being free–because the Son has set us free?

I am very concerned that we are becoming a generation of super-ag-nuts, having just enough Holy Book in us to answer questions on Jeopardy! and enough agnosticism and doubt to steal our faith in the moment of need.

Call it out–first in yourself, then in the superstitious agnostics around you, who are too frightened to admit they don’t know and too prideful to be willing to allow knowledge to confirm the power of belief.

My luncheon with the superstitious-religious brother and the agnostic-emerging-towards-atheist sibling was a wash. But it did make me more determined to remove the superstition from my faith and allow the truth to make me free.

And mainly free of disbelieving just because I’m too lazy to experience God for myself.

   

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