Saturday, June 19, 2010

a Swedish wedding, among other things

ok, well, this has little or nothing to do with sports, endurance or otherwise, other than that it's generally about a subject touchy to some of us in the community. that, and it sort of ties in with my heritage.

today, June 19, is the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria to Daniel Westling in Swedish. Victoria met Westling, a commoner, when he became her personal trainer. he's from Uppsala in northern Sweden. the wedding concludes a 4-day event that included dignitaries from around the world, an audience of 5 million people, and a price tag of more than $2.5 million. you can get a good bit of information from the following selection of articles:
on a background note, you can see a lot about Swedish culture from these news reports (as well as the wedding). i can highlight the following:
  • Sweden practices equality of the sexes, with couples walking the aisle together (there is no father giving away the bride--which is why it caused a slight uproar when Princess Victoria asked for it)
  • Sweden is egalitarian and virulently anti-class, with many Swedes questioning the continuing existence (and cost) of a monarchy, to the extent that some even propose making it an elected office (if not abolishing it altogether)
  • anything ostentatious is frowned upon in Sweden (people are complaining about the $2.5 million price tag, which to me is peanuts compared to what other European royal families spent)
  • privacy is guarded in Sweden (it's not evident from these articles, but on the day of the wedding the royal family closed out the ceremony from the media, causing news agencies to hold a boycott)
the reason this is on my mind, however, is that it comes in June, the traditional wedding season in Western societies, and as a result puts an exclamation point on something that preoccupies me this time every year. i also know it preoccupies a lot of my buddies in the endurance sports community, and so i suspect it preoccupies many of you as well. you know what i am talking about: the loneliness of the endurance sports athlete.

endurance sports tends to be a solitary experience. as much as racing is a communal activity, the long lead-in of training is largely individual, with many hours spent over many miles very much alone, especially for ultra-distance events, where the volume of workouts become so great that very few people undertake them. even in races, there's not that much of an opportunity to reach out and connect with others, since everyone is caught up in their own personal journeys and the challenges of the day.

i'm aware of the perception that athletes are magnets of social activity. but my experience has been this is a misperception, at least when it comes to endurance sports. some other better-known bigger-money more glamorous (and invariably more team-oriented) sports may certainly fall into such a category. but endurance sports, particularly ultra-distance ones, because they're less-known or smaller-money or less glamorous (and ultimately less team-oriented), really don't feature the same level of sociability.

all of which means at the end of the day, we're very much being left to go home alone.

i've written about this before:
i've talked about this with my buddies quite a bit over the years. we've tried to do things about it. we've tried joining training clubs, hanging out at sports community mixers, chatting fellow athletes we've encountered on roads and trails, flirting with people at expos and races, anything to just meet people. so far the results have been mixed. in my case, they've been 0--as in zero, zip, zilch, nada, big fat goose-egg. as in i might as well go join a religious order, given my extent of celibacy.

and you know, i'm getting tired of this monastic lifestyle. as much as i love endurance sports and everything they've taught me and given me in terms of life and living and fitness and health and the whole being of existence in body and spirit and mind, they haven't filled the gap in my heart.....which has left me feeling a little less than, a little short of, a little way from being human. it's left me feeling incomplete.

and this has made me all too cognizant of the truth i knew and always knew long before i became an athlete: without love, you do not truly have life. because, as so many poets and artists and musicians and lovers and dreamers have come to know: love is really the greatest truth (as in: the only the best the one) in the universe (as in: all creation all existence all cosmos); it's the greatest secret against the eternity within which our mortality otherwise has no meaning.

which is why, despite all the lessons that endurance sports have provided to me, their training will always be incomplete. because they can't lead me to this mystery, other than to leave the one principle they've always passed on: this is something we have to do's something we have to do alone.

i'm scratching my head as to what to do, quite frankly. especially as it seems everyone else is getting hooked up and married. especially as it seems everyone else has gained the treasure that is the greatest truth.

i feel like i'm being left behind.

and so i'm watching this wedding, and the sappy cheesy maudlin sentimental gushy love-drunk fairy tale, and i'm finding myself wishing for the same thing: i find myself wanting love, i find myself wanting the truth, i find myself wanting to be complete.

and oh yeah, i find myself wanting a Swedish wedding (even if it's not the royal kind).

yo man, can a brutha just get some love?

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