Last night I joined a billion others in watching the opening ceremonies of the 30th Olympic Games broadcast from London. My billion plus friends and I were treated to stunning sights, sounds, and sentiments.
Together we were like a crowd no one could number easily or ever, joining those who were physically encircling the center of the arena. We joined people from most every nation, tribe, people and language (if not literally at least representatively and vicariously). Participants had donned colorful and culturally symbolic clothing, gloriously reflecting the diversity within the human family, in celebration of common commitment and achievement. Common though incredibly extraordinary as well. Where else and when else are such diverse peoples ever together in such beautiful ways as we witnessed last night? Likewise, where else and when else is the latent but powerful potential of human being together on display—the prowess that brought this community together, the promise of record-setting accomplishment, the possibility of overcoming the deadly divides from which they and we come, and a peace realized that could provide what is whole and well to all?
Indeed, all 1 billion of us could feel both enormous pride and hope for Olympians that especially belong to us, without diminishing the hope that this gathering reflected other possibilities or even realities that so transcend the next two weeks as to seem universal and cosmic, maybe even eternal in scope. Imagine a way of being, of being human together as to make the singing, dancing, and partying of last night routine. Imagine the possibility of such being together where all that we have or might have would be marshaled for all and against the powers of un-being that threaten us all. Imagine a way of being, of being human such that hunger and thirst were satisfied and every human tear not born of joy were blotted out for good. Imagine such a way of being together—all this and more, such that the joy of it all makes us faint and collapse in contented rest.
Then, imagine a champion whose accomplishments somehow move these other imaginings within reach. Imagine such a gathering, such a way of being human together not in anticipation but celebration of these accomplishments. Imagine at the center of the gathering this champion—the exemplar of all would-be Olympians, wreathed in victory but forever bearing the marks of sacrifice through which the victory has come—somehow himself radiating the light and the power of a different kind of flame. Imagine this champion, whose achievements draw together this way of being human together, leading us in singing and living the song of joy that never ends.
My billion plus friends and I watched much if not all of the nearly four hour broadcast last night. When it was over (for some of us before), we turned off the TV or shut down the computer, went to bed, and woke up this morning to find that nothing had really changed.
But what if something had? What if our imaginings are not imaginary? What if a Champion has achieved such gold? What if our imaginings turn out to be but a mere glimmer of the full reality? What if another way of being human together can and does happen? What if such a champion was “out there” or right here?
Imagine the difference. Yes, imagine.