I'm getting hooked on the Tour de France again this year. It's my annual sports event--the only one I follow with any real involvement. Basketball, football, tennis, golf... none of these catch my interest. When I lived in Canada, years ago, I used to watch the National Hockey League games avery week, but I only recently returned for the Stanley Cup finals, when the L. A. Kings were in line to win. Hockey, in Los Angeles? And the players, when I used to watch in Canada, were nearly all French Canadians. Now, I discover, the sport is internationalized.
The same with the Tour de France. It used to be pretty much a contest between the French and their Spanish and Italian neighbors. Nowadays the riders come from virtually every part of the world--from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Far East; last year's winner was the Australian, Cadel Evans. This year, for heaven's sake, it's an Englishman who's the favorite! Bradley Wiggins...
... won Monday's individual time trial with convincing ease.
As I say, I'm hooked. Which gives me the opportunity, once more, to reflect on my addiction to outcomes. I love stories. I want to know what happens next, I want to know how it all ends. In the Tour, of course, it's first and foremost a matter of who's going to end up in Paris with the winner's yellow jersey, after twenty grueling stages, five of them in the high mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees--the equivalent of twenty marathons and more, on nearly consecutive days. It's a feat of endurance unrivaled by any other sport. As long-time readers of The Buddha Diaries know, I have been watching, on and off, since I was a lad with my own bright red racing bike in the 1950s, in the days when derailier gears were a lot less reliable than today's--and certainly not electronically controlled. The technology of the bicycle has, shall we say, evolved considerably since my day.
Doping. It's a shame. I sometimes wish that instead of banning the stuff they would just legalize it all and ensure that everyone has the same opportunity. It's the hidden edge of drug-enhanced performance that casts a real shadow over the entire sport. Still...
I'm hooked. Love to watch the sport. Need to know not only the big outcome, but all the little ones: will the breakaway succeed in outfoxing the peloton today? Who's going to be the first over the next hill, or reach the summit of the mountain first? Who'll emerge unscathed from the next disastrous pile-up along the route? Who'll prove the fastest sprinter, the fastest time-trialist? Which rider will drop out from injury or sheer fatigue? There are a thousand stories happening at once in this great tour, and I want to know the outcome of each and every one of them.
So, yes, it's a good lesson. I not only indulge myself and my addictions, I'm offered the opportunity to stand back and observe them. There are more important and compelling things in life than the Tour de France, more stories in progress in which I am personally involved. As I have said often in the past, my main problem with the prospect of having to die is the reluctance to let go of any of these stories, my need to know how they turn out. Will Luka one day be someone's grandfather, as I am his? Will a human being set foot on the planet Mars in 2030? It pains me that I will not be around to know such things, and for this reason struggle with my mortality. The achievement true happiness, Buddhist wisdom reminds me, depends upon a person's ability to surrender this addiction and accept the fact that everything is impermanent, even life itself.