Saturday, January 10, 2009

sky lanterns in the new year

certain regions of East Asia celebrate the new year with a tradition of launching sky lanterns. sky lanterns are small balloons made of translucent paper with candles suspended underneath them, so that the candles generate hot air to provide lift as well as light to make the balloon luminous.

originally, sky lanterns were used as military signal devices during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. over time, they were adopted by farm communities, where villagers who had abandoned their towns to escape the attack of outlaws used sky lanterns to signal their families that the outlaws had left and that it was safe to return home.

in the modern era, sky lanterns have evolved, becoming associated with a celebration of the lunar new year as a symbol of good luck and a carrier of good wishes for the future. in the Ping Xi township of Taiwan, they are the centerpiece of an annual new year celebration, with attendees gathering in the winter twilight to light their individual sky lanterns and make their personal wishes, before releasing them en masse to rise quietly upwards into the night sky--a broad array of lights representing a panoply of hopes illuminating the darkness of the heavens.

for more information, you can reference:
the implication of the sky lantern tradition is that there is something that will see fit to make our wishes real...that there is, in essence, the divine that will fulfill our prayers.

as athletes, however, we are taught to approach our aspirations differently. we are taught that our hopes are our own responsibility. that our wishes are our own obligations. as a result, regardless of anyone or anything--or any divine--else, it is our own duty to see our own prayers fulfilled.

this means that for any goals we have, it is up to us to work towards them. for any races we have, it is up to us to train for them. for any dreams we have, it is up to us to realize them. us, and no one else. us, and no thing else. us, and no god else.

and if there is a god, then god can only help those who can help themselves.

because, you see, (and this is one of the fundamental truths found in sports that goes far beyond sports) it's about effort. it's about trying.

because it is in the act of trying that we muster some semblance of progress and some measure of change, and in the act of trying that we make such things for the better. in so doing, we overcome barriers and face down challenges, and thereby exceed the scope of our own limitations and the confines of our own existence, and go one step further into the unknown...and in the process learn about ourselves, our world, and even our god, so that we can make some reconciliation between them all and know the true measure of our design before all creation.

you see, we are our own sky lanterns. we are our own candles.

and it is how hard we try, what effort we give forth, that will determine how high our light will reach into the heavens.

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