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16 May 2013

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

The Olympic fever receded pitch in the land of the ageless queen. London, recently in the frenzy of the once in four year universal sporting fiesta, is still counting her gains. The world attention was on in the major sporting arenas of the British capital with thousands of able-bodied men and women stretching muscles, streaming sweats, burning tracks, shaving off time in races, shattering records in wrestling, rowing and throwing, kicking and boxing, fighting for fame, gunning for gold and chasing honours.

The Olympic family is perhaps the only family that rivals the United Nations in membership, on the surface of the earth. So, making the Olympic list is being on the world stage; winning an Olympic medal is a life time achievement. Being decorated with an Olympic gold enlists one in the halls of fame, both of the games or sport one attains victory and of one devoted to a country's greats.

I can only place the Olympic gold in the same class of achievement with the Nobel and the Grammy. Each is the highest aspiration in Sports, knowledge and music respectively. Only the gifted and the talented, the gurus and wizards, the ingenious and the geniuses get to be decorated with these prized medals for their inimitable attainment and unparallel skills. The medals represent self-actualization. With an Olympic gold, the American Grammy and the Nobel Prize comes all the glitters and attention one can imagine, unsolicited friendships and companies for their winners, but at the same time unintended exposure. They become a joyful pain in the neck, and they may intoxicate. Here lies the challenge: how does a medallist manage success and fame that they do not constitute regret in his or her life?

I had intended the title of this piece to be the Goal of Gold. Being too exclusive a metaphor, I found the Grammy and the Nobel possessing similar allure in our pursuit of distinction, fame or eminence in life. In one way or the other, every height we aspire to reach, every goal we aim at, and all that we want to be celebrated for in life becomes the gold in our sight, priceless! So, what price must we pay for the gold that is dear to us? What sacrifices must we make to reach our goal in life? What is the end of our goal? How relatively valuable is that gold? What is the goal of the gold?

In the philosophical realm, these sound as ethical questions. And answers to ethical questions can be very subjective and situational, varying by time and circumstances, by personality and emotions, by motivations and the needs. Therefore, the goal of the gold may be very altruistic and impersonal. It can also be borne by the frustrations, denials and neglects we suffer just as it can be to masturbate our egos. Whatever fires our quest for the gold, there is another troubling question on how we go about it. What taste does it leave on our palates? What traces does it leave in our bloodstreams? What pollutants, virus, infections and diseases, or the hangovers does it leave in us? Ultimately, what frame, picture or colour does it paint us?

There are stories of Olympic gold medallists, melting the gold in the medal to make money and mourning despite their fame. There are stories of high achievers smashing their trophies at the height of desperation and depression. There are stories of world champions in boxing and wrestling ending behind the walls. There are tales of soccer stars living as wretched of the earth, in poverty after making millions; of tennis champions running into debts; of cricket baseball whiz kids who had spent nights in the best of clubs in Europe and America, sailed in expensive yachts, drove exotic cars and chauffeur-driven in limousines, flew in private jets to some Caribbean Islands in the embrace of rubies as damsels, smoking the fattest cigars, downing the choicest wines but ending all in penury. Is this the goal of their gold, dying in infamy? Should this be the end of the gold?

There are also tales and instances of Grammy winners, masters of music but are failures in mastering their own emotions and relationships. Invariably, they are mastered by their servants and drivers, mastered by the food they love, the crack they smoke, the cocktail of drugs they live on and the fear they nurture, the fear of losing acceptance and fame. In this circumstance, they court tragedy as they drove themselves crazy in order to remain on top. Riding to the top, however, is not as challenging as remaining on the top. The reality of being on the top is that there is always someone else gunning for our spot on the top. The top is not for one person alone. The lesson here is don't ever think you will remain on top for ever, otherwise you drive yourself to extinction too soon. The second lesson is: always create room for others when you reach the top so that you will have jolly good company on the top.

The most important lesson however is: while gunning for gold or the grammy, never take the short cut. Never give others hard sliding tackles, the crippling kicks or the benumbing knuckles to overpower or overtake. It is not only your victims that suffer the pains. His will be physical all right. But you will ever live with the shame and trauma of cheating to get your gold. You may fake that all is well for some time, but you may never be forgiven by the man whose glory you stole and by God who confers the ultimate glory and honor, who crowns genuine, sincere efforts in gold both in this world and in the life to come. The final take here is not all that glitters is gold.

These are not my words, but evergreen saying that has guided the path of many men of wisdom to the ultimate honor and glory in their lives. The Grand Architect of the Universe is the one who designed the courses on which we run the race of life; He is the all-seeing umpire and the most accurate time keeper. So, in the race for fame and honour, you can never cheat before Him or hijack the gold from Him. If you deserve it, you will get it. If you steal, you will forever regret it.


ABDUL-WAREES  SOLANKE B.Sc. Mass Comm (Lagos); Master of Public Policy (Brunei Darussalaam)  Head, Voice of Nigeria Training Centre, c/o VON Transmitting Station, Ikorodu, Lagos. Formerly the special assistant to the Director General, VON, he is the 2007/2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association scholar in Public Policy at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam,  korewarith@yahoo.com 08090585723



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