Time Out: August 1, 2012

“Everything has a purpose, even this, and it’s up to you to find it.” —Socrates
I gravitated to a movie choice that was totally unfamiliar. Donna Pangburn, a gold medal winner at her craft, was surprised I’d never seen the film but assured me that for me it was a homerun. And, the timing was perfect; summer, gymnastics, Olympics.

I’m sure movie critics called it predictable, formulistic, even cheesy. Who cares? Donna was right, “Peaceful Warrior,” a 2006 movie, was the perfect choice for the end of July at the start of an Olympic summer.

The movie is based on Dan Millman’s best selling fictionalized autobiographical novel, “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.” Millman, a former world champion gymnast, college coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor, has authored 13 inspirational reads enjoyed by millions of readers around the globe.

A magical film
The magic of “Peaceful Warrior” is the same Olympic magic that captivates the world in four- year cycles, the magic of story. As it is with the movie, it’s the back stories of the Olympians that grab and hold us as the games unfold.

The movies story centers around a young Dan Millman, a gymnast on the Berkeley team, a sharp looking, hot shot, thrill seeking extrovert, living life free and easy and on the edge while testing limits as he trains for a possible appearance as an Olympian. Early in the morning, while jogging, Millman meets an aging gas station attendant, a philosopher of sorts who eventually transforms his attitudes about living and life.

The gas station attendant, a character played by Nick Nolte, throws pretentious wisdom at the young Millman throughout the film. At first glance, the lofty quips might make you wince; yet after more careful review, the sage’s advice aligns well with the pursuit of Olympic perfection. Try a few on for size.

“Take out the trash,” is advice urging Millman to clear the clutter from his mind, to live fully in the moment and harness the focus and the singularity of thought required of maximizing his potential. Is that not the challenge every Olympian must master as they spend hour after hour, year after year, preparing for Olympic magic.

“A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” The clarity of purpose of the Olympic athletes is a magnetic attraction for me, the glue that keeps me attached to the Olympic story. It’s the same love that captures my attention on “America Has Talent” watching contestants who have spent a lifetime relentlessly pursuing some offbeat talent with not much more to carry them forward than the love of the activity itself.

The dream of gold
“There is only the journey.” Every Olympian must dream of winning gold, but it’s not enough. To maintain focus and purpose over long stretches of time, Olympic athletes must honor the journey. It’s the journey, not just the destination that brings Olympians back to engage in grueling preparation for yet another day.

“Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is that most people don’t live at all.” Olympic greatness doesn’t come without taking chances, without walking a path alone, taking a route others can’t comprehend. Life is for living, one to the lessons the Olympians reinforce every four years.
‘Peaceful Warrior’ is an apt description of the fascinating Olympians and their compelling stories as they mesmerize the world from London.