Lance Armstrong — Why Dope Matters

There’s so much bilge in the media, around the issue of elite athletes’ supposed “stature.”

The notion that sports stars are “great” as people, simply because they have athletic talent, is stupid. Worse is the notion that they should model moral vigor. It’s absurd. It’s childish. Read the news.

Really. Charles Barkley nailed when he deadpanned in the now-famous Nike commercial, “I am not your role model.”

There’s huge confusion in our culture about what morality is. As an instance, let’s look at why doping matters. Heck, when Armstrong was riding the Tour, everyone was doping. Lance had a to shoot up to keep up. Right?

To get at the truth of what’s moral, and why, I think we might be able to find some clarity by consulting an ancient model of values – one that’s scientific. By that, I mean it’s a model that was derived from direct observation of human life – not empty speculation about God’s will or by consulting an old and poorly understood book of churchly rules.

I’m speaking of the ancient wisdom of India. The sages of India patiently observed the human scene and looked for answers to a simple question: “What do people want?”

By watching life and seeing how it works, they realized that behind all of our human actions, no matter how subtly disguised, there’s a single basic motive: we all want to by happy, and avoid suffering.

“How, then,” they asked, “can people achieve this end?” So they looked at a large variety of human actions and concluded that happiness grows, and suffering decreases, when we behave “expansively.” That is, when we use five human instruments of action and perception – body, feeling, will, mind, and soul – in ways that give us greater health and energy, expansive feelings such as love and compassion, inner strength, wisdom, and joy.

Okay, back to Lance Armstrong. The problem with dope is that its effects run counter to the universal search for happiness. Remember – happiness increases when we expand our consciousness. And dope is contractive.

We’re happier when we escaper our narrow self-concerns and let our sympathies spread out to embrace the realities of others.

Dope is always used (by athletes, anyway) for narrow, contractive purposes. I want to experience a high. I want to get a buzz on. I want to escape life and enter an alternate reality.

Dope betrays the universal human urge to become stronger, nobler, more healthy, compassionate, and wise. Athletes who embrace doping make a big mistake – they betray their own chances of finding more happiness. And to the extent that others look to them as examples, they betray those individuals, too.

Our schools need to teach children about non-sectarian values, so they can understand WHY contractive behaviors are self-defeating, and therefore wrong.

Until then, we’ll continue to see pathologically inflated numbers of youth suicides, drug use, and crime.

Sports, when done rightly, are a wonderful way for young people to experience what it’s like to expand their awareness and be happy. I worked for a time at a small market in the foothills of the Sierras. Every afternoon, a group of kids would come in after school for snacks and conversation.

They were great kids, but I couldn’t help but notice the difference in their energy and consciousness, and that of a young girl who played high school basketball.  When Brooke came in after practice, she was radiant with health and well-being. I think she was born cheerful and positive, but sports augmented those attitudes by giving her energy.

Sports are very important for kids. Each child, at his/her level, can find increased happiness through exercise. Happiness begins with the body. When we do the things that increase our health and fitness, the body thrives, and sends fresh energy to our feelings, will, and mind, augmenting their power and making us feel happier in those dimensions of our being, too.

I’m not on the bandwagon with those who want to lynch Lance. I see him as just another fellow traveler on the path who’s looking to be happy. In the words of an old song, he was just lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. Something I can’t say I’ve never done, too.

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