Just like the winter games taking place in Sochi, the imaginary ‘Olympics of Life’ would host an ongoing series of events. Some would have clear, well defined and easily judged values. Like, who makes the most money? Who has traveled the furthest? Worst criminal ever would be less definable, though not as hard as, say, picking the most altruistic human alive. Then you’re getting into categories that, much like pairs dance, are influenced by opinion rather than fact.
It’s the same when we judge ourselves. Our own ideas regarding our virtues and faults may be coloured by wishful thinking. “I’m a ten out of ten,” we might think when considering our own characteristics of friendliness and good humour. And we believe it to be so, mentally hanging the gold medal around our own necks while being careful not to check with the judges, i.e., friends and family, for their opinions.
I try not to worry about things like that, but instead, focus on the tasks in which I truly excel. Like reading. If there was an Olympics for readers, I would be a contender. For one thing, I train hard for it every single day. I read as if I were being paid a fortune to do so. When I see others sitting glumly on the bus, bookless, not a magazine in hand, I can’t comprehend their motivation. Why stare into space when you can gaze into the soul of the universe? Everything you ever need to know about life can be found in a book or great magazine article.
Do you need to be more compassionate? Read a book. Do you have an ungrateful heart? Crack open “Twelve Years a Slave” and you’ll never complain again. Cormac McCarthy’s, “The Road,” with its bleak and despairing future, actually made me feel less stressed about the environment. Reading chips away at our faults, breaking off little pieces of pettiness and intolerance. This honing of our character leaves us stronger and much less certain about the rightness of our own opinions. Which is a very good thing. A ‘peace on earth’ thing. Children and adults become more empathetic when reading. It’s impossible to have an ‘us against them’ mentality when a book opens the door to a new world, inviting us in and introducing us to the lives of others. We learn how to live when we read a book. We become a better version of ourselves.
A handy portal to an expanded universe, plus the new and improved you, sits waiting at the library. Your life guru, the local librarian, can be your guide to Everything you need to know about Anything. You might seek adventure in a travel book, learn to cook great meals, meet a kindred spirit through a biography or pick up a ‘how to’ manual which will enable you to survive the zombie apocalypse. It’s all there. And its free.
Every day I go for the gold, sharing our Canadian athlete’s desire to ‘Own the Podium.’ “But the training involved!” you might be thinking. “I don’t have time!” You make the time. Carry your book, or kobo, with you always. Read in lineups at the bank, in bathrooms (including your home,) in bed at night, and whenever you have the luxury of eating a meal alone. Take note of the time you waste on things like facebook, or computer games. I say this even as I prepare to do an online crossword puzzle. But still. Take up this reading challenge and enter the race to win it. You’ll be a better person for it, and just think how in shape your mind will be! You might win that most coveted prize ever. Old age and a brain that still works. Now that’s golden.