Tuesday, September 30, 2008

a little late, but still...

So we can all agree that Michael Phelps is a grade A badass. That’s fine. It has actually been entertaining for me to go to work and be able to communicate with the other humans about a sports related subject without pretending to care. Because I really do.
But I noticed something the other night. After my fourth conversation with bar guests about him, I realized that two people referred to him as a machine and two others called him an animal. I’ve personally called him both without realizing the underlying implications of those opposite associations.
Face it. On the one hand you have an animal, a beast that hits the water and propels itself to the other side of the pool with instinctual fervor. And on the other hand, you have a machine, fulfilling its primary function which would be to move its parts in a manner to reach the other side in the shortest path possible. They are seemingly the embodiment of two very different things.
But are they really?
They both are non-thinking things. We can debate whether or not animals are truly thinking things or not, but for all intents and purposes, they are instinctual, not contemplative. The same with machines. They do not think about the shortest or quickest path, they merely plunge into the water in accordance with their programming.
Also, if you talk to an athlete who can perform to that level, they often speak of that non-thinking place where they go when they are in intense competition, that Zen like space of doing. Maybe that’s what we mean when we say that he’s an animal or a machine.
If you think about it, it’s pretty cool that these are the people on the international stage for all to see. These are the ones that find that Zen space. They are the ones that transcend the non-doing reality that so many of us humans are trapped in. We think, they do. And we applaud them for it and daydream that we are in their non-thinking shoes.

-Dennis Edmons

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