esprit Olympia

Nothing beats a competitive edge. Despite nature’s ruthless selectivity, the hierarchy of men still manifests itself in every scale or criterion; hence the emergence of the Olympics, an apparently futile ceremonial device designed to challenge the physical limit of the human race. The prohibition of illegal substances further accentuates the irony. Nonetheless the Greeks were not stupid, having conceived some of the best ideas in politics and natural philosophy. The purpose of such foolhardy establishment is at least two fold. Having a sizeable sovereign community needy of common defense, the athletes served as paragons for the working soldiers at the frontiers. They bridged the gaps between immortals who reside in the Olympus, and the league of gallantry on earth, a role comparable to the priesthood, yet stripped of the subtle religious creed often associated with hypocrisy and corruption. The second goal the Greeks had in mind, perhaps, was to inspire certain Olympic/Epic scale human endeavors, for the betterment of humanity. The Greek philosophers tended to engage in heated debates starting from Socrates, a tradition that has far outlived the city-states. To carry on the constant irritation of being refuted by spectators, and formulating defensive statements without losing sight of the big picture is not only an art, as politicians often dub it, but a self-depleting sport survived only by the most tough and resilient.  

   It is this second goal that I find most adhesive to my own pilgrimage onwards the truth. A scientist of 21st century standard requires not only the serendipity of inventing the shape of the wheels, he is to be judged by the craftsmanship with which the polish of the final vehicle is displayed. Not only is he satisfied by the creation of one of a kind, he envisions mass production and universal acceptance of the essence of his creative power, often unassisted and unappreciated for eons. The moment of eureka cannot substitute for the exhaustive search in research parallel the exhaustive training in sports. With the awakening of methodological revolution, people often cherish shortcuts of success while neglecting the importance of character building. This is true in sports also. Training facilities are getting more ornate and versatile every year, coupled with distraction from media, athletes are facing ever increasing expectation and demand from public and themselves alike. Similar is the fate of research workers, who strain mentally to outwit their predecessors, and somewhat ironically, the local science libraries. Small observations are important in initiating new directions, but sustained trial and error is the key to solving concrete problems, building theories, and discovering new territories. Just as politicians must have volubility before they can sell their agendas, researchers must have accumulated enough “field working knowledge” before publishing. The Olympic spirit is precisely what fuels such long term conditional response.

About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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