This evening I plan to join a billion others in watching the opening ceremonies of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. I am confident that my billion plus friends and I will be treated to stunning sights, sounds, and sentiments.
Together we will be like a crowd no one could number easily or ever, joining those who were physically encircling the center of the arena. We will join people from most every nation, tribe, people and language (if not literally at least representatively and vicariously). Participants donning 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 they will be tonight? Likewise, where else and when else is the latent but powerful potential of human being together on display—the prowess that brings 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 will likely feel both enormous pride and hope for Olympians that especially belong to us, without diminishing the hope that this gathering reflects of other possibilities or even realities that so transcend the next 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 the opening night of the Olympic games 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.
The billion plus friends will watch much if not all of the hours long broadcast tonight. But when it is over (for some of us before), we will turn off the TV or shut down the computer, go to bed, and wake up tomorrow morning to find that nothing has 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?