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Invictus – are you a winner?

Recently, I was lucky enough to go to the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia.  One of the events that I saw was a men’s 1500 metres race, featuring six veterans with a range of disabilities – some had two legs, some had one leg and a blade, and one guy had two blades.  Later that day, we saw the TV coverage of the race, and it showed the few seconds when the Australian ran across the finish line to win.

The Athletics Track.

But that wasn’t the real story

On the first lap, the competitors were bunched together, with an American guy at the back.  He had lost both legs above the knee, and he had to move his blades with a side-to-side gait that looked like really hard work.  But this guy was big and strong, and he never looked like someone struggling to keep up, he looked like someone who was biding his time, waiting to make his move.  On the second lap he did so, and on the straight, right in front of the crowd, we went wide and overtook the pack to take the lead.

He didn’t just get in front but got 10 metres clear of the rest of them and stayed there for most of the race. He looked unstoppable and it was thrilling to see him go.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite keep it up.  As he tired, the Australian veteran, who had been in second or third place for the whole race, made his move on the final lap.  He crossed the line well in front of everyone else, and sadly the brave American guy, who made such a bold, gutsy run, didn’t finish in the medals.  I admired the Aussie for running such a clever race, and the American for his strength, guts and big heart.

That wasn’t the end of it.  After the guys who won medals crossed the line they went back to encourage and support the others across, including the guy in last place who been lapped by everybody else earlier on.  That story, that drama, never made it onto the TV screen.

Missing the Point

The next morning, we watched the news summary on ‘Sunrise’ an Australian TV program, which reported the results from the athletics event of the day before.  Some Australian athletes were named, for example, one guy who “won gold in the 100m, gold in the 200m, gold in the 400m, and gold in the 1500 metres”.  The only reporting was of those who were winners, who were champions.

This completely missed the point of Invictus.

The joy of the games was watching people compete.  Watching the teams go nuts as they cheered on their comrades (I never knew that Danes could get so excited).  Watching people come first or in the middle or last and being wildly cheered and celebrated no matter how well they did.

The point of the games was it that it took men and women who were broken, who lacked meaning in their post-military lives and gave them purpose.  It turned them into contenders, even though their bodies may never be whole again.  Invictus gave them something to focus on and a goal to aim for.  It restored a discipline, which had ordered their lives and given them direction in the past.  (These are their words, not mine.)  Hopefully, these men and women, whether they win a medal or not, will go on to apply this new sense of purpose in other aspects of their lives, after Invictus.  Many already have.

The exception to this reporting was the ABC evening coverage of the games, which did a great job of getting the ethos of Invictus across.  Thank goodness for public service broadcasting.

Lessons

There are probably two lessons here. The obvious one is that there is no substitute for being there; watching something vicariously, through a screen, or hearing someone else talk about it just isn’t the same.

The less obvious lesson is about the Australian tendency to celebrate winning and winners to the exclusion of all else.  This puts pressure on our sportsmen and women to win at all costs.

I suspect that it was this pressure that caused the Australian cricket team to indulge in ball tampering last season.  I can’t help feeling that the huge wave of anger directed at them had more to do with the fact that they were caught, not because they had done something wrong.  They had failed at what they were required to do, which was to make us all feel like winners.  They were supposed to maintain the illusion that one can win all the time, without cost, without compromising one’s principles.

Winning at All Costs

Malcolm Turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull

When the ball tampering scandal hit, Malcolm Turnbull, the then Prime Minister, said he was more concerned about sledging.  (For the uninitiated, “sledging” is where players verbally abuse the batsmen, to put them off.)  I think Malcolm had it right. If sledging is a legitimate part of the sport, then what age do we teach kids to say “I shagged your wife” to another sportsman?

When we first came to Australia, we were shocked at how the media tore into the cricket team if they didn’t win.  The TV news would talk about any old billy-bollocks first, and then mention in passing that Australia was losing, or “looking to come from behind for a win”, as they would say!

It’s not just in cricket.  When the Olympic team flew home from London 2012 the medal winners were separated from their teammates.  The winners flew home in business class, and the rest in economy.  It’s all part of our “winning at all costs” mentality.

Invictus – a Better Way

Well, I can say with confidence that, in Invictus, I saw a better way – a better definition of winning, and of what it means to be a winner.  I shall look forward to seeing the next Invictus games, which will be held in The Hague, the Netherlands, in 2020.  I might have to watch it on the TV in the middle of an Australian night, but it will be worth the wait.

Science and Spirituality

This article, Science and Spirituality, is the first in a series of four articles.

Science and Spirituality

As an engineer of many years’ experience, I’ve needed my training in mathematics and science every day in my various jobs.  That training allowed me to solve problems, to understand complex machinery, electronics and software and to keep up with people, well mostly, who had much more experience than I did.  I couldn’t have done without it.

Maths and science are universal languages, and they are unrivalled in their precision and repeatability.  To give the crudest of examples:

2 + 2 = 4 

We take this for granted, but think about it, 2+2 doesn’t equal 3 or 5, but only 4.  Not more-or-less 4, but precisely 4, exactly 4.  And the answer is 4 yesterday, today and forever.  It can only be 4, it cannot be anything else.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what your gender is, what your ethnicity is, what your politics are or how much money you have.  It makes no difference.  It’s inarguable: no discussion, no debate.  It is completely without controversy.

What a relief!  Isn’t that reassuring?

However…

If like me, you are a fan of The Big Bang Theory – the TV show, not the origin of the universe – you may have noticed that the simple elegance of maths and science doesn’t cut it in every situation in life.  In fact, it can be so inappropriate that millions of people are still laughing at the results after 12 series (that’s 257 episodes for those who need more precision).  My wife – a musician – likes the show because it reminds her of me (I chose to think that it’s Leonard who reminds her of me; I like Leonard).  

 

 

In my defence, I already knew this.  Honest!

As an engineering consultant, I work with clients, many of whom are not geeky engineers.

Next article: Science and God

Adelaide Writers

Welcome, Writers!

I hope that writers feel comfortable here.  I write speculative fiction, but I enjoy all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, as you can see…

My bookshelf

Writers’ Groups

I am a member of several writers groups, for example, a little Facebook group called ‘Writers of Adelaide‘.  There are six other members, so far, and here are some links to their blogs:

Ryan Peck: https://adelaidedad.com/

Dean Mayes: http://www.deanfromaustralia.com/

Jennifer Sando: http://www.jennifersando.com/

Heidi Arellano: https://marissakeller.blogspot.com/

Mary Louise Tucker: https://mltatlarge.me/

Fontella Koleff: https://crossbordertales.wordpress.com/

Adelaide Writers’ Group (AWG)

We meet monthly to critique each others’ work at the Cumberland Arms Hotel.  Ask to join our (closed) Facebook group page for details, or try the SA Writers site for information on other local groups.

Back to my writing projects!

Preachers

Welcome, Preachers!

You probably found this post searching for preaching content, and you can find resources for preachers here.

You can also find all my preaching posts here.

Regards, Simon

Simon Di Nucci, writer, author, christian, preacher, writing the message
Your Host, Simon Di Nucci

 

Science Fiction Fans

Welcome, Science Fiction Fans!

You’ve probably found this page via a search engine, and you’ve come to the right place – I’m a fan too.  I’m also a writer of science fiction and you can find out about my projects here.

Best Regards, Simon

Simon Di Nucci, writer, author, christian, preacher, writing the message
Your Host, Simon Di Nucci

Anatomy of a Writer’s Block

Writer’s block.  It’s a cliche, it’s not real – is it?

This Writer’s Block

In 2010 I started writing my first novel.  (We’ll forget about the train wreck of a novel I wrote in the 1990s).  It was planned as part of a trilogy called When I Was, Other Than, What I Now Am, which is a quote from a short story by Greg Bear.

Greg Bear, SF Author
Greg Bear

By late 2012 I thought I had finished writing When I Was (HO-HO-HO, I’m still working on the latest draft in 2018) and I moved onto Other Than.

With the benefit of hindsight, this book was probably suffering from Second-system syndrome.  I deliberately kept the first one simple, with one main protagonist and everything written from his point of view.  Not so with number two! There were three main protagonists and multiple points of view.  Did this contribute to the problem?  I’m still not sure.

Anyway, all seemed to be going well.  I was using a detailed chapter plan, a first for me as I recognised the complexity of what I was taking on.  The words came easily and the characters, who I knew well from book one, were doing most of the work for me.  By March 2013 I was 30,000 words in and then … nothing.  I just ran out of steam and could go no further.

What Happened?

Looking through the files from then it was a very creative time.  I sketched out ideas for several novels, including one that evolved into Jubilee (a current work in progress, see this page) and another book in my planned alternative-crime series, The Oxygen Thieves, which is still on my to-do list.  Perhaps I just burned myself out.  After all, we’d just moved to Australia with a stroppy teenager (don’t try this at home) and I was just setting out on a five-and-a-half-year roller-coaster ride on a massive project at work.  (Incidentally, this ride comes to an end at the end of this month: synchronicity, anyone?)

In the end, I wrote my way out of the block, by starting a new project, writing the first 12,000 words of The Daedalus Soul; since then I’ve built this story to 50,000 words.  Eventually, I was able to go back and take the first draft of Other Than to 80,000 words and a conclusion.

Postscript

Sometime later I discovered that another name for writers’ block is the thirty-thousand [word] doldrums.  My grateful thanks to Emma Darwin and her excellent blog site This Itch of Writing.  As always, Emma provides wise advice and a useful perspective, from which the aspiring writer can see a way ahead.  Thanks, Emma!    Emma Darwin, patron saint of struggling writers

Emma Darwin

I am now returning to Other Than in order to complete it (note to self: must learn to FINISH a novel).

Culture or a Relationship with God?

A sermon on culture versus God, from 1Corinthians 8:1-6.

Aim:  To show the limitations of ‘culture’ as a substitute for loving God.

Scripture

Paul talks about Jewish food rules getting in the way of the Christians worshipping God.  These rules, which were helpful for living in the desert a thousand years before, have no power to help anyone.

Paul names this: mere superstition.

Meaning for Today: culture

Today we call this superstition ‘Culture’.  This word used to mean making people better, educating them, but now we use it to describe all the things we do for no logical reason.

For example on Australia Day speeches all started by acknowledging Aboriginal Culture.  This is a well-meaning but empty gesture, as it does nothing to improve anyone or to correct real inequality (e.g. an indigenous woman’s life expectancy in South Australia is the lowest in Australia, whereas a western woman’s life expectancy in South Australia is the highest).

Using the culture label for other’s religious beliefs avoids difficult questions like: are they true? are they real?  By focusing on Culture we can paper over the cracks: safe but superficial; however, it’s patronising, even cowardly.

Culture: application

I was talking to a friend having a tough time, he’d had some time off work with stress.  We talked about how we have to wear a grown-up mask to show other people, versus the real person underneath, which was formed when we were children.  We have to maintain this pretence because our western culture won’t accept or value our real child-like selves (is this something we could learn from the Aboriginal peoples?)  Maintaining this false mask causes real mental health problems.

It made me think how helpful our relationship with God is. We can be ourselves – weak, childlike, silly – but even so, we are accepted and understood.  We can understand our place in a family, in society, in this false culture (Jesus calls it ‘the World’) and the universe.  It is real, not culture.  It causes people to admit their mistakes, to be true and real, to right wrongs and do amazing things to educate themselves and improve the lives of others.

Conclusion

Let us enjoy and value culture, but keep it in its place.  Let’s not accept the superstition of culture – giving it power over people, or the idolatry of culture – allowing it to be a substitute for God.  We are created in God’s image, to have a relationship with God.