6:00 am. I’ve been awake for a while, but I feel like going back to bed, to linger there for 5 more minutes. My wife senses me and says, “What did Simona do?”
“She lost,” I reply. “I’m so sorry,” my wife says.
I had waken up at 4:00 am, and the first thing I did was to check Simona Halep’s result in the semifinal at the Australian Open.
We live in the US, and still, the first thought we had in the morning was about Simona, a Romanian who plays tennis for herself, but who brings together many hearts while doing so.
There is something about these athletes, who are able to produce such emotion by hitting a ball with a tennis racket or by throwing a ball into a basketball hoop. We can discuss notions of identity, belonging… We can engage in moralizing arguments about the intrinsic importance (or lack of importance) of the ability to run on a court or on a football pitch… We can analyze the social impact of sports…
But how is it that the successes of someone I have never met are so important to me that they are the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning? Of course, one may say that it is about my own successes, that somehow the successes of people who belong to the same nation with me are experienced as my own. But there seems to be more than that: it is about Simona’s sadness when she loses, and Simona’s joy when she wins. Her feelings (or what I imagine them to be) touch me.
Imagine the many cries for joy that accompany a successful backhand; imagine all the sighs that are buried together with the ball into a net… And imagine living the life of an athlete who takes together with her the energy of millions of people. There is a certain freedom in this: the energy is not mandatory, but it is offered freely, in love.
Can each of us become an athlete for those who share our lives, so that we redeem the world that is touched by us in our dedication to whatever talents each one of us may have? A world full of athletes, each dedicated to his or her talent and thus to all around them. Perhaps this is what it means to be part of a body: to be a limb that attempts to live virtuously (in the Greek sense of excellence, arete) and who rejoices in the excellence of all other limbs. A Body: a Kantian Kingdom of Ends. A Kingdom of Athletes.