We asked faculty member and scholar of early Greek thought, Richard Geldard, Ph.D., to share an impression of what an early Grecian might think of our modern Olympiad.
As a faculty member of the University of Philosophical Research, Dr. Richard Geldard lectures on The Birth of Consciousness in Early Greek Thought and Emerson and American Idealism at the University of Philosophical Research. He holds a doctorate in Dramatic Literature and Classics from Stanford University and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
Below is his concept of what Myron might have thought:
Imagine, if you will, the Olympic Organizing Committee for the 2012 Games in London deciding that, as part of their preparations for the games, they will invite a spirit from the ancient games to be a guest.
After some debate, they decide to ask the great Classical sculptor Myron, whose signature piece, The Discus Thrower, has graced the modern games throughout the modern era.
The committee presents Myron with a modern Greek guide to help him navigate the current games who can speak to him in his foreign tongue (the Greek language revitalizes itself every 400 years).
At the opening ceremonies, Myron finds almost nothing that he understands from his years spent at the sacred sanctuary in Olympia. He is relieved of his confusion only when his guide shares with him that the torch that is being carried into the stadium was lit months before within the same ancient sanctuary.
Myron, unfortunately, is quite dismayed that, not only are women present at the London games, but are active participants, even in the discus and javelin events. The guide also tells Myron not be surprised to see women competing in wrestling and boxing.
As the opening ceremonies come to an end, Myron is pleased to hear something familiar—translated, of course by his guide—the charge to the athletes to follow the rules, not to cheat and to compete with honor and respect for one another and the Olympic movement.
At the gymnastics arena, our ancient visitor studies the male competitors carefully and finds himself quite satisfied that the human form still manifests the godlike ideal celebrated in his own sculptures of bronze. He sees poise, control, coordination, and skill, as well as courage under great pressure in each of the contestants.
Later, at the great stadium, he holds a discus in his hands like a cherished object, feeling its weight and shape. He is grateful that, at least this object has been passed down as a token of the sacred experience he once portrayed in his art.
Asked by his guide which Olympic events were the most popular in his time, Myron smiles and replies that, without doubt, the trials of combat, especially wrestling and boxing. Many ancient texts describe heroic feats of strength and endurance over many hours, with special honors given to victories in three or four Olympiads.
Myron explains that, in recognition of special performance, officials of the victor`s city authorize that a section of the city`s defensive walls be torn down to create a special entranceway for the victor. And even though the laurel leaves soon fade, the city will honor the returning hero with lifetime lodging and food. They may even commission a statue, and in special cases, make a gift of it to the sanctuary at Delphi.
As the games come to an end Myron asks his guide if all hostilities in the world cease in order to allow athletes and audiences to travel in safety to the London Olympics as they did to the ancient games. “Alas, no,” the guide explains, “the world no longer respects the games as they once did.”
Myron says that when he returns to the world of shadows, he will report that the new world order has forgotten much, but that in most events, through much effort and dedication, there is an understanding of what remains to be achieved, that there is something higher, deeper to be realized and understood and that all is not lost, not yet.