Aspiring to Greatness

As I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, I found myself considering the concept of greatness. There is much to be inspired by at the Olympics, with its multinational, multicultural, made-for-TV story lines — a brief moment (albeit purely symbolic) of international unity. And whether it is me simply succumbing to the schmaltzy, over-the-top production values or a genuine response to the power of the human spirit, I always exit the Olympics wondering “What if?”

What if I worked as hard as these athletes to accomplish a goal – any goal? What could I accomplish?

What if we could all put aside our differences and focus instead on our similarities (which are far greater in number)? What could we accomplish? As a country. As a people.

Yes, I am aware I am a bit intoxicated by the images of the youthful exuberance of the athletes prancing to a soundtrack of Lennon’s “Imagine” and Bob Costas’s precisely engineered narrative. But the Olympics are undeniably powerful to most of us.

I suspect their power is, at its core, the product of sense memory. As I watched my children reenact their favorite Olympic events over the course of the last two weeks, I remembered the feelings of excitement I experienced when watching the Olympics as a child. I suppose the feelings of melancholy I inevitably experience at this point of each Olympics stems from the knowledge both that I let those childhood dreams fade with each closing ceremony and that I am in the distinct majority in that lapse.

Most of us do little to carry that inspiration forward beyond the closing ceremonies, and as a parent I often wonder how I might fan those flames in my children. It matters not to me what type of greatness they hope to achieve or that they achieve it. It matters only that they possess within themselves sufficient hope to fuel a dream. And it is exceedingly difficult for me to reconcile that wish with the fact that most of us adults have set those dreams aside.

I think most of us at some point aspire to greatness, but those dreams get extinguished at a certain age. Maybe it is a function of the paralyzing practicality of adulthood (after all, dreams rarely come true) or the realities of age (many dreams do, of course have an expiration date — we can safely say that Usain Bolt need not fear my shadow in the 100 meter), but I fear that we have entered an era of limited aspirations — a sort of golden age of mediocrity.

There is no more embarrassing example of this race to average than the current presidential campaign playing out on a world stage between two men — who by virtually all accounts have been blessed with exceptional intelligence, who have experienced success at levels enjoyed by very few, and who have the potential to impact millions upon millions of lives — seemingly hell-bent on using as much of the basest and least productive political trickery they can imagine. They and their multitude of advisors know that trickery is easier and more effective than genuine debate when you have a populace that demands nothing more sophisticated.

We apply the same abysmal standards to our children, our schools, our celebrities (Snookie anyone?), and seemingly everything else. It is time to stop settling . . . to become inspired . . . to aspire to greatness. And this is why we watched the Olympics with our children. My children are just now beginning to consider their possibilities, and I refuse to allow them to become indoctrinated by the dogma of the unexceptional.

While I am unlikely to ever hoist a medal at the Olympics, watching them makes me want to be a better father. A better husband (can you hear my wife shout, “hallelujah!”). A better friend. And therein lies the power of the Olympic games. The power to inspire. The power to remind us of the potential within us all. If nothing else, it is a temporary distraction from the daily onslaught of mediocrity. Maybe the Olympic games aren’t your thing, but I hope that you will find inspiration wherever it exists for you and very deliberately nurture it.

I know I will.

Wanted: Inspiration

There comes a time in every hack blogger’s career (i.e., free time) when he must write the obligatory, “I Have Nothing to Write About” post.  This, my friends, is that post for the staff and writers of MuchAdo.  All of MuchAdo’s readers (by which I mean “Both of MuchAdo‘s readers”) have been so kind (which is to say, “have not openly criticized the blog”), that we simply cannot bear to write just any old thing* and risk any (either) of you losing faith in the quality (passable strings of mostly real words) you have come to expect from MuchAdo.  The writers at MuchAdo strive for excellence in every post they write, and we believe that one of them may achieve that goal some day.  Probably accidentally.   Certainly not soon.  But they’ll keep trying.

But Who’s To Blame?

In trying to determine why we’ve found ourselves in the midst of this creative famine (and, yes, I understand that we weren’t exactly awash in creative brilliance before this), it occurs to me that The World is truly to blame here.  First, The World has held no Superbowls for several weeks now.  Second, The World has not caused Joel Stein to send any additional e-mails (other than the one where he thanked me for plugging his book and called me a “condescending ass,” but I think we’ve pretty much ridden that train as far as it will go).  Finally, The World has caused people to pretty much behave at the grocery store.  In other words, what the heckfire is a guy supposed to write about?

Oh, sure, there is all that political stuff, but do we really want MuchAdo to be associated with those clowns?  Exactly.  Not until we get closer to the election and we can write something truly poignant (i.e., something that might get people to arrive here for some reason other than the hope of glimpsing Brett Keisel’s beard).

The Phrase That Pays (But Not Really)!

So, that leads me to the purposes of today’s post.  First, is there is anything you would like to see us writing about?  If so, leave a note in the comments section. (And remember to leave your name so we can thank you!)  Second, are you tired of “us” referring to “ourselves” as a staff of writers and researchers when “we” are, in fact, just a guy in his boxers sitting on the couch? If so, leave a note in the comments section to let us know. (And remember to leave your name and e-mail so “we” can send you a picture!)  Third, would you like to win a valuable prize**?  If so, click on every link in this post and be the first to leave a comment including the phrase “I read every post and each one was better than the last.  I laughed.  I cried.  It was better than cats (the animal, not the Broadway show — nothing is better than Cats).  MuchAdo is the greatest!” (And remember to leave your name and e-mail so we can send you your prize!***)

But What If Someone Beats Me To It?

The editorial staff (ha!) at MuchAdo will verify all entries to determine whether all links were actually clicked.  In the event that the first commenter claiming the grand prize*** failed to meet the requirements of the contest, the next commenter who meets the requirements will be our lucky winner.  That means you should keep trying to win, even if dozens (HA!) of others have already posted the winning phrase.

Good luck!!!

* Items written or posted on New Year’s Eve were not included in this analysis.

** There is no valuable prize.

*** First place is a free lifetime† subscription to MuchAdo!!

(Note: prize is only valid until MuchAdo becomes a subscription-based service, at which time prize winner will be required to pay like everyone else.)