Olympic Dreaming

I felt as though I had fallen into a dream the minute I switched on the TV last night planning to watch the news but finding that I had tuned in, almost miraculously, at the very second the coverage was beginning for the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics in Sochi. Not having realized exactly when the ceremonies were being broadcast nor having planned to watch them, suddenly there I was. In the dream. I fell in, watched it all through.

Born in 1951, I grew up with the notion of Russia as a scary, worrisome, possibly evil “other” – almost like a myth of the wicked, evil one who might eat a child, in this case one who might blow us all up. Over the years of maturing and the dynamics on the world stage shifting, Russia became in my mind that mysterious other, haunting the imagination with her literature, art, architecture and seemingly unknowable enigma; her strong soul bravely enduring unthinkable hardships.

I was extremely moved when in the very opening moments of the ceremonies they showed a young girl’s face, saying her name which I couldn’t catch, but the name means “Love.” The commentator said she represents the feminine soul of Russia. What a way to start! Immediately she lifts off the ground and begins to fly, fly high, a brave little girl. They explain that “She will tell the story of Russia through a series of dreams, as Russians see themselves as dreamers.” The history of Russia as told through the dreams of a child! How beautiful. I thought the story was magnificently told in brilliant artful display. This is certainly a unique opportunity for Russia to bare her soul on the world stage. The music, the ballet, I was entranced.

I don’t want to talk about Putin in terms of politics. I will say that when I heard that last week in a zoo he was seen “cradling a leopard, which you rarely see politicians do,” I thought “Yep, never heard of a politician doing that one before.” I would love to cradle a leopard! Who is this man? What must be the dreams of Putin? Russia covers 9 time zones, it is that vast. They explained that in an essential sense the source of many of Russia’s most basic problems is that she is so isolated and alienated from the rest of the world; they were isolated from the Renaissance, isolated from the Enlightenment. What longing Russia’s soul must be expressing now to bridge that gap. Isolation and alienation are cruelly painful states.

I could go on about what I am feeling regarding the dream of Russia, but it is the dreams of the athletes that are most glorious to watch, like catching a fire just to look at their spirits. I have a daughter who is training for the Olympics in 2016, hoping to make the team in Women’s Weightlifting. I know in a personal way how hard these athletes work, how much of their life is given over to their sport, how much heart it takes to keep on with their efforts and training, to take defeat, to never lose vision, to keep their dreams alive and their spirits strong.

I appreciated what Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, said: “The Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity. Therefore I say to the political leaders of the world, thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. Please respect their Olympic message of good will, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the back of these athletes.” I’m pretty sure that was, at least in part, a jab at Jimmy Carter for his decision to withhold our athletes from Russia’s previous Olympics, but I do feel the point is well taken and well spoken. My daughter and her teammates are the most glorious ambassadors this country could hope for, no one works as hard as these athletes do.

These days ahead are mythic time. Dream time. Please to the gods, may great blessings of peace protect and lift these events. May they unify our hearts as a global community and bring courage, pride and love to each athlete, each nation, and all of us as one on this beautiful Earth as she spins through the galaxies leaving such splendid sparks and trails of glory.

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