Doom and awe. Veneration and destruction. Perfection and the pushing of limits.
This week the Olympics kick off and a perfect 10 for gymnastics will no longer be used, ending one idea of perfection. The peak age for gymnasts is trending up, due to new rules. Once upon a time I sat in gyms in Houston, a hotbed of gymnastics with Romanian coaches, while my oldest daughter worked for one more half twist off the parallel bars, one more spin off the beam. She'd started her sport in Oklahoma, working out next to gymnastic Olympian medalist and two-time All-Around World Champion Shannon Miller, the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in history. "How could they take away this beautiful, this most perfect thing from us, the one thing that separated our sport from the others?" asked Bela Karolyi, a gymnast coach who encouraged my daughter at one point, on the dropping of 10.0 as the top score in Olympic gymnastics.
Dara Torres, a 41 year-old mother, is seeking yet more swimming medals this year at the Olympics. That is the female athlete I'll be watching and it isn't the new swimsuits that will make this swimming competition newsworthy, but the barriers that we see being pushed by a female. Once a swimmer, I took up running in my mid-30s when I learned that female runners peak at age 35. Or that was the thinking, then. Boomer Chronicles has a list of the oldest athletes competing. So, in our 60s we can compete in equestrian events - just think.
Death and threats: Little Boy, the first atomic bomb used for killing, caused a 'rain of ruin' when it was dropped 63 years ago this week in 1945 on Japan's port city, Hiroshima, killing an estimated 80,000 immediately and up to an additional 60,000 who died from injury and radiation by the end of the year (compare that to over 1,250,000 Iraqis killed since the 2003 invasion). Living not too far from Los Alamos, the lab where the first atomic bomb, the Trinity, was developed, I think about how these nuclear works still threaten the world. The threats this week regarding Iran's refusal to adhere to international pressures makes President Truman's warning to Japan apt for our times: "It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26, was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on this earth," Truman said. Sure enough, Little Boy shocked and awed the world.
Big boys and bombs - such a male thing. A Perfect 10: female-esque. Bad taste - what mother would let her gymnast daughter do this?
Ideas of perfection, both for destruction and competition, are on my mind. The ides of August.