Thursday, March 7, 2013

In praise of ordinary

Two news stories out this week: Russian authorities have identified who they think was behind the acid attack on Sergei Filin the director of the Bolshoi Ballet. There are motives of professional jealousy and romance. The person who allegedly ordered the attack on Filin is a lead dancer/singer with the Bolshoi and he is romantically involved with another dancer, Anzhelina Varontsova, who reportedly was being passed over for better roles because Filin had had a falling out with her. Filin has known and worked with her since she was 16 and a rising ballet prodigy. She is in her early twenties today. In Russian ballet circles she was pushed to attend the best ballet schools where the pressure is intense to excel. As she has aged into her twenties there were various reports that her body was growing faster than her ballet proficiencies. She was becoming "fat" some of her critics claimed! The other story was the lead article in this week's Sports Illustrated called The Power 50 - the 50 most powerful people in the business of sport. Heads of sports leagues and the entertainment outlets that showcase the sports. Men and women, mostly men, who make multi- millions and whose decisions can affect many lives. Most of the powerful are in their 60s-70s and can have pretty much whatever they want in life. Including the pressures that come with living lives of the gifted and the powerful. How often we are treated to stories about the athlete or performer who is so naturally gifted they arrive at a very high level of play or performance at a young age. Often, as their personal story goes, their rapid ascent to fame and fortune does not turn out well. The pressures of easy wealth, and fame, and power wreak havoc on young lives. And old ones, too, for the old adage about power corrupting is a fairly common theme in stories of the rich and famous. While we may think we could handle it better if we had a try at it... it may be fortunate we don't. I was trying to think of a Bible story where the rich and powerful turned out well. I couldn't think of one although I could think of several that serve as warnings about making that pursuit a life goal. Jesus told the story about Lazarus, the beggar, at the gate of the rich and powerful man. He had one story dubbed the Rich Fool. There are Old Testament stories that featured flawed humans who may have come to places of wealth and power but if they did - it was almost by accident and those places only made their flaws more noticeable. Moses was an ordinary man who God chose to bring to a place of power and it worked out for him as long as he was in constant communication with God. David became a great King but he was never a great father or husband. Solomon, the wise king, became less wise when he trusted in his own smarts forgetting wisdom was God's gift. Joseph rose to a place of power after being the spoiled brat of the family and it was God who saved him from a lonely and frightening death at the bottom of a well and later from rotting in an Egyptian prison. Obviously, he learned some important lessons along the way as the last chapter of his life demonstrates. The highlight reel in the Bible only has one main character and that is God. All the other characters are secondary, lesser lights, whose best roles happen when they reflect the greater Light. We might take from this that life works best when the Light we bask in is God's and not our own. It is more than enough to be ordinary and leave extraordinary to God.