Kenneth Sickle (United States) on Tools and Weapons

August 30, 2012

“…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” –Isaiah 2:4

The story of man is one of tools and weapons.
They are often one and the same device; the difference rouses in the minds of men and how they use them.

Consider the split personality of one of man’s first tools: fire.

It was human ability to control fire—to use it as a tool—that made its harnessing bigger than merely a way to fight the chill of the long and cold nights and cook food. More profoundly, it harnessed something that had the ability to destroy and kill and make it a good and valuable tool. Something raw and powerful had come under the control of man and the possibilities for its good were manifold; civilization leapt forward.

Yet, fire had potential for other less noble things. Man found it could also be used as a weapon: humans could be burned for their beliefs, villages could be torched simply for being in the way of an invading army, arrows aflame could ignite homes of the enemy, a spark could propel lead through human tissue, human beings could be incinerated, countries made to evaporate from the heat of it wrought atomically.

And so, we see coursing through the many venues of its sojourn, the Olympic torch. It is held aloft as it goes, the raw flame lighting those varied paths toward its lighting of the event’s meeting place.

This is fire as a tool; this is fire held high so not to burn or maim, and this is the spirit of the Olympics: to find honor in harnessing power and to find a purer purpose to the tools we are given.

And yet, there is this incompleteness. The original concept in ancient times was fairly simple: to call a truce, a ceasing of all warfare to give safe passage to the athletes and to the peoples that sent them so that they could travel through and to various countries without fear of attack. This “Olympic Truce” ideal was then laid as a cornerstone of its modern era founding in 1894.

With weapons laid down and the muscles and competitive nature of the human spirit now more nobly channeled, the game had, itself, temporarily morphed weapons into tools.

Nations will enter the arena proudly displaying their flags when the Games start; people will swell with pride as their athletes wear their nation’s colors. Yet that act is still one that measures—and promotes—our differences.

While it is well and good for them to feel these swells of pride, the Olympics need to go beyond the display of local patriotism and finish its charge, punctuate its stated values, and lengthen the “truce” by ending the Olympics in a profoundly different way than it starts.

What is being suggested by this essay is an ending event—perhaps a relay, a marathon, or a team competition that combines athletes from various and random nations on ad hoc teams. Picture it: an American runner handing the baton to a Russian who hands it off to an Israeli who hands it off to a Chinese runner in chasing the gold.

Because then, as records are kept and challenged, the lofty figures reached would be attributed to athletes of all mankind, causing a swell of worldwide pride. These would be records of a united planet.

Thus, the Olympics would start with our differences paraded but would end with a working together for the prize—a prize that promotes athletes running together and not against.

And man himself will becomes a tool, not a weapon.
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