The Olympic Feeling: A Countercultural Response to the Games
August 2008, the Olympic games are about to begin for the 29th time in the modern age. Athletes from around the world will gather in Beijing to once more give out a universal message which will transcend all nationalities and political differences. Humanity will again be one in its celebration of the human body and its potential.
Or is it really so? This ideal picture that the Olympic Committee in unison with national governments and global corporations from around the world are seeking to convey is, as many are well aware, actually quite flawed.
The self-evident truth is that beside the sometimes seemingly trivial fact that they deal with human beings and their dreams, the Olympic games are at the same time a multi-billion-dollar political, nationalistic, capitalistic and consumer enterprise. The allegedly unblemished symbol of the Olympics acts as a multi-faceted platform for political revenue, financial revenue and media manipulation.
What's wrong about the Olympic games
Behind that clean shiny façade of a universal celebration, the Olympic games are first and foremost the quintessence of everything that's wrong with human capitalistic society in the beginning of the 21st century -- tons and tons of money flowing in various forms of drugs that the athletes consume to enhance their bodies, that the viewers at home consume (from beer, to caffeine to nicotine) and that the Olympics itself endorses (Coke); a multi-billion-dollar advertising business aimed to further tame global brains to the worship of a select group of elite brands; and corrupt politicians taking coupons on the backs of hard-working athletes who have in some cases been subjected to cruel training methods hardly suitable for elephants in a circus and to psychological brainwashing in service of nationalistic ideologies.
One would almost be tempted to call the Olympic games all wrong if it weren't for the fact that behind this polluting, manipulative and sometimes even mind-controlling business lies something sublime and true, a primal and intimate feeling that stems from the human body, the experience of the body and our ability to explore it.
Beneath the multifaceted layers of fame, politics and money lies the human body and an inherently sacred moment in which an athlete communes with his inner powers to achieve greater potential. For despite the many powers reigning in Olympic politics, the games' ultimate symbol remains that moment in which inner barriers are crossed and a new level of relationship between man and his body emerges.
This is what I call the Olympic feeling, a feeling of total connectedness to your body, a connectedness transcending all other media-drug distractions that control our postmodern mental ecology.
In a culture that overfeeds the body, starves the body, lays it in front of a television set for hours at a time, urges it through treadmills, sits it in front of a desk from dusk till dawn, fills it with depressants and stimulants of all sorts and in short represses the body and estranges the human being from it in any form possible -- in such a culture the Olympic feeling is an essential antidote to the hollow message of the Olympic media games, a calling for people to reconnect to being through the medium of the body and celebrate what philosopher Terrence McKenna called the felt moment of immediate experience.
The true Olympic message
This Olympic feeling which is the true and subversive countercultural message hidden within the Olympic games cannot be branded, marketed or sold. This sense of connectedness to the body is achieved not only (if at all) in front of dozens of TV cameras transmitting to the world, but also by dozens of human activities beside sport, ranging from sex and spending time outdoors to meditating, playing with friends, dancing, or just paying attention to the way you breathe.
This Olympic message comes not from the television sets or from engineered ultra muscular, hyperactive sportsmen bought for dollars, but from inside our most sacred shrine of personal experience, the human body.
As the 2008 Olympics commence this August, it is beneficial to remember that this whole over-blown, steroid-filled media event is a call to explore your body and your experience.
Image by Ric e Ette, courtesy of Creative Commons license.