Can you let your brilliance be dimmed?
Like many other Americans I watched Olympic skier Bode Miller in an interview that immediately followed his bronze medal performance in alpine skiing at the 2014 Winter Games. As has been detailed in the press, the reporter who interviewed him just after his win was somewhat relentless in pursuing a reaction from him regarding how he felt about the recent death of his younger brother. Viewer’s reactions to the reporter’s incessant questioning came swift and hard – mine included. I felt in was unconscionable the way she asked the same question in four different ways until finally Bode Miller bowed his head and crumpled into an emotional heap before her. It made me angry to watch but it also completely changed my perceptions of Bode Miller.
Prior to watching last night’s race I was not a big Bode Miller fan. Now mind you, I am not someone who follows alpine ski racing even a little bit, but I knew who Bode Miller was, and I had a firm opinion of him in place. My perception of him had apparently been frozen in time- from 2006 to be exact. Prior to yesterday, the Bode Miller who took up space in my mind was a pompous, devil-may-care, real life bad example to young people. I could easily recall in a fair amount of detail, why I did not ‘like’ him following the 2006 Olympic games. This in itself is quite amazing to me, because I can never remember anything! The fact that these stories that ran in the press in 2006- were STILL running in my head 8 years later was my first clue that I was about to be schooled. The only reason the reels in my memory stopped turning, is because of a tenacious reporter who stripped Bode Miller naked (emotionally) in front of the world. Is that really what it took for me to get beyond my own ‘brilliance? Yes it was.
Such a great lesson. Who am I to judge someone based on such a small amount of data about their lives? Of course I am not alone in this- we do it as a species ad-nauseum. At a personal level, it’s appalling to me that before watching his bronze medal run, I felt perfectly justified in my opinions. How many times in a day do we each view someone through the lens of their yesterday, and in doing so, rob ourselves of the ability to see them as they are today?
This gives me a reminder that my opinions need to be like fences; capable of corralling my thoughts, but something I must be able to open up and get beyond if I ever want to be free. Bode himself is the one who really swung the gate open on the fence I had built around who I ‘knew’ him to be. It was not his tears that got me, but instead the compassion and kindness he showed toward his aggressor (the reporter) after she came under fire by the masses. One of the primary reasons I frowned upon the Bode Miller who lived in my memory, was because I thought he was such a poor example to young people. The man I saw interviewed 8 years ago did seem like a poor example- but the one I watched yesterday most certainly was not. I am glad my perceptions could finally grow- but I am humbled at how I bought into my own ‘brilliance’ for the last 8 years of watching this Olympic athlete. In my mind, he never left that interview I watched of him in 2006.
So is it great that I can now see a new Bode Miller? Maybe. But the reality is, the only real new data that I know about the man is that he won the 2014 bronze medal in Alpine skiing, his brother died 10 months ago, he cried in front of the world, and he was really compassionate to the reporter who made him cry. Other than this limited amount of new data and a few snippets of news from 8 years ago- the other 36 years and 126 days of Bode Miller’s life are a total mystery to me.
Of course, what I am talking about here has nothing to do with Bode Miller for the most part. It has to do with remembering, remembering, and remembering again, that we all have a bigger story- one that no one else really knows. Why do we allow ourselves to view each other through still shots of the past and feel justified in dragging those old pictures into the present? Why was I guilty of doing this when I know better? Because I am human, and I fall asleep to the things I know- and I stay asleep until life knocks me awake. I am more awake today than I was yesterday, and I am going to try to stay that way. Instead of watching still shots from the past, I am going to work harder at paying attention to the ‘live- streaming’ that is always going on in the here and now. Oh, and I am also going to try much harder, to let my brilliance be dimmed.