Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't Touch Him - He's a God

"Don't touch him - he's a god."
--an Italian fan, of Bartali

“Если Бога нет, то всё дозволено”. [Without God, all things are morally tolerable.]

“Morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.”
--Sarah Palin

What is it about superhuman beings that makes us act funny?

The power they exercise over us (or maybe in us) is not necessarily the threat of hell or being smote by lightning or whatever. Sometimes it's as simple displacement--longing to be an admirable person in a series of meaningful events, an amazing and beautiful story that spreads out from the pages and holds up our world, like clothes drying on a line.

The power of such a story is its rightness; whether it happened or not is unimportant because, to us, it is happening now.

For this reason, dorks dress as Gandolf or Counselor Troy, and Japan is, well, a longish island full of people pretending to be cartoon characters.

America's theology is, for the most part, that of Walt Disney. The star is totally irrelevant; it's wishing upon it that is the important thing. We believe that longing and pining for something--whether it be a world in which halibuts, freds, or infidels are freely clubbed--is noble.

It's no surprise, then, that longing for material goods is part of American theology.

In Palin's world, it's not God, exactly, but belief in him that makes us better. "Jesus," as Ricky Gervais notes, "the invisible, unpaid babysitter."

Some now blame Palin for the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords. Her "inflammatory rhetoric" is at fault, they say. Palin's Facebook page previously depicted Giffords, a Democrat, in the cross hairs of a rifle scope and stated, "Don't retreat! Instead - RELOAD!"

The beautiful thing about chosing cyclists as gods, even in the doping era, is that none of us will go around killing people. We recognize it's only a story we like, and if we do inhabit it from time to time, we don't mistake fortune or misfortune for the hand of the divinity. We don't wish suffering (except the suffering we willingly choose) on anyone.

The creed of cycling is merely that of the tifosi: "Don't touch him - he's a god."

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