The New York Times > Magazine > The Way We Live Now: What Olympic Ideal?
What ever happened to Chariots of Fire, those brave British boys sprinting around the quad at their Oxbridge college, inspired by Principles--those amateurs?
There was a PBS documentary on the Romans yesterday, describing their passive-aggressive rationale for empire building. The Romans make the case that they have to subdue the tribes at their borders to be secure, so they conquer neighboring territory, ostensibly in the interests of defense. Then the neighboring territory becomes part of the Roman empire so, recursively, territory bordering on it has to be conquered to secure what has now become Roman territory. And so on, until the empire reaches the end of its lines of communication.
So, recursively, we create leisure pursuits, turn them into businesses, then create more leisure pursuits. which themselves turn into businesses.
I was in Texas last week visiting L. whose mother has a house on the Gulf of Mexico. We rented kayaks and explored the salt marshes while jet skis and power boats buzzed us. I can understand the jet skis--I'd like to try it--but the powerboats buzzing around and around the inlet, getting nowhere fast, were a mystery. I like sailing, fiddling with the lines, continually solving puzzles. But I don't understand why anyone would want to go round and in round in warm water 4 feet deep in a powerboat, getting nowhere fast and not doing anything interesting. It seems like playing slot machines--about as interesting as working on an assembly line.
We're geared up for puzzle solving and strenuous physical work, hunting wooly mammoths. Mercifully, we don't have to hunt or gather anymore, or farm or weave. So we can garden, do fancy needlework, play games, prove theorems, test ourselves against material and intellectual constraints purely for pleasure. But we don't. We turn sports into a business, make entertainment a life and death affair, and cheat.