Monday, December 20, 2004

Achilles' Choice

The ancient Greeks had a lot of odd ideas about the world and the way things worked, but they were nevertheless keen observers of humans and human behavior. Their legends are still compelling reading today for that very reason. The chords they struck all those years ago still resonate. Consider Achilles. This is one thing that the movie Troy got more or less right.

The legends tell us that Achilles was given a choice. He could stay home, marry, raise a family, and basically live out a good life. A life of wealth and privilege, many sons, and an easy passing after a long life. But he would be totally forgotten afterwards. The unnumbered years would devour his name. Or, he could choose to go to war against the Trojans. He would die in battle during that war, but his deeds would be such that his name would blaze forever in eternal glory.

Achilles chose glory.

What brought this to mind recently is the whole controversy regarding steroid usage in professional sports. Now, I don't follow pro sports all that diligently. It's not a big interest of mine. And I don't really want to get into whether or not it's a good thing. I'm thinking more along the lines of motivation. Surely, people know the dangers? It's pretty common knowledge that steroid usage put paid to Lyle Alzado. Even I, who don't follow pro sports, know that much.

There are those who would use them, even so. They see the dangers, but also know that these things can take a good talent and make it great, or take a great talent and make it legendary.

They, like Achilles, choose glory.

That doesn't make it a good or wise choice. I think that they're taking a terrible, terrible risk by using steroids. But they don't have the same priorities that I do. A hundred years from now, no one will know or care who I was or what I did. But they'll probably remember who Barry Bonds was. To them, that makes all the difference.

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