BBC Radio Two - Pause for Thought
29th September 2000
Anyone who saw me in front of the TV during the Olympics would have thought I was watching some weapie movie. My eyes glistened when the contestants beat their personal targets. And the tears poured when someone with so much expectancy on them succeeded. I just blubbered away when British rowing star, Steve Redgrave, won his fifth gold medal and when Cathy Freeman, the aboriginal athlete, won the ladies 400m for Australia.
As a Belfast boy myself, the sporting hero of my youth was Georgie Best. Best tells the story of one night when his footballing days were behind him. He had just won £25,000 in the casino, and was staying at some fancy hotel with a former Miss World. A room service waiter was taking care of their needs. But, on his way out, he paused to ask his hero, “ George, where did it all go wrong?” To Best, this seemed a ridiculous question when he had clearly attained a jet-setting lifestyle that others could only dream of.
Perhaps, the waiter was thinking that, despite all of Bestie’s fantastic sporting triumphs, there could have been even more. It’s natural to feel that high-living pleasures aren’t really a substitute for taking full advantage of our special abilities.
Whether it is in sport, education, career or relationships, unfulfilled potential does seem to be a tragedy. But, even if we are highly successful in our chosen field, the sages of the various faith traditions warn us not to miss out on a more crucial aspect of human potential.
One Hindu poet wrote, “Wake up, sleeping souls. You are lying on the lap of the witch of illusion. She has tricked you into thinking that you have so much time in front of you. But, with every rising and setting of the sun, a day is lost and you have not yet realised your life’s purpose.”
Deep inside the human heart, there is that nagging feeling that we are supposed to fulfil some greater destiny. It’s one of those innate feelings that remind us that material life cannot be the all-in-all. And, that we should be doing something about it – soon!
The Hindu scriptures say, “Athatho brahma-jijnasa. Now! Now, is the time to look to God and ask: how can I fulfil my spiritual potential?”
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2.