Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Action is Eloquence"

Every July, I spend each morning watching the Tour de France in the comfort of my living room. The years where Lance Armstrong and his teams of road warriors dominated the Tour were as exciting as sports competition can get. The sweeping views from the various mountain points, the brutal ascents, the sometimes ruinous descents, the sheer beauty of man and machine in motion on the flats and in the time trials never grow dull. But it is the way the character of each man was and is stripped away that is most fascinating.

This year is extraordinary. Armstrong races on the strongest team with Alberto Contador leading the pack after the 17th stage. I have been amused by the commentary during each day’s events as the attention turns away from the greatest bicyclist ever to the pursuing front runners—the amazing Schleck brothers, David Wiggins, etc. Counting Armstrong out, the commentators tend to dismiss him until he pulls off one seemingly effortless feat after another, then the previous asides comes off as inane. He reveals a man who knows how to put his considerable power and experience in service to his team while riding for something larger than himself. As a result, he proves himself to be the team leader, indeed the Tour leader, no matter where he ends up in the standings (2nd until today’s 4rth place overall, and 5th place finish.)

What dark parts of himself did he come up against to become the extraordinary human being he is his today? Maybe when he was chasing the-most-ever Tour de France wins, he was chasing his own mortality, defeating the cancer that could have consumed him? He maxed out each day as if it were his last—and like all great physical warriors, if his last proved to be on the field of battle, what greater honor. Those were the victories of a man among men who make themselves Kings, which he most surely did. But to compete as he does now for something greater than himself does him greater honor still. He continues to be the most interesting competitor to watch. He isn’t running from or to anything, but generating his life from a deep place of inner stillness even as he continues to put himself through one of the most excruciating tests of physical endurance.

He has become a spiritual warrior. He has crossed over into the realm of the High King, who knows that to be the leader of leaders means you choose to put yourself in service to others. In all he says and does, he reveals his Self—his support of his team and competitors, his dedication to the cancer survivors and those desperately ill with the disease. His great capacity for love and compassion is expressed in how he is being in “the doing” of the Tour. Viva la difference.

Whoever wins this year’s Tour de France, what Lance has made of himself and what he has created will sustain and light the way for those who come after him—in Sport, in Contribution and in Humanity. Onward to Paris….