Sunday 12 August 2012
So reads the author’s note in Chris Cleave’s 2011 novel ‘Gold’ about the brutal, relentless, desperate and dangerous nature of being an Olympic level athlete – the sheer awesome reality of the levels of physical and emotional pain that individuals can and choose to push through, to places which are beyond painful, on the very boundary between life and death.
In a dizzying and personal pursuit towards Olympic gold, the author weaves two women cyclists’ intertwined journeys, which are actually about very human things like envy, fear, desperation and loss. The story is gripping: which one of them will make London 2012?
In the end, one of them does and the other does not. But the story, as all stories, is about so much more. While they compete, one of the athletes has a sick child. Cleave says, having witnessed it at first hand: ‘Caring for sick children is the Olympics of parenting. At Great Ormond Street Hospital, parents and staff alike seemed to step up into a state of focused grace in which all worldly concerns are cast off until all that remains is love… it was like being embedded with angels’.
Whether we are competing in the Olympics, looking after a sick child or relative, or engaged in some other daily task which takes our time, energy and attention, surely what makes us most alive is doing the thing which is set before us, putting all we have into it, and allowing the task to become us as we become absorbed into it. Do we then, in unpredictable moments, glimpse the divine, when earthly concerns are cast off, and see that all that remains is love? We might yet meet the occasional angel.
The Revd David Jackson