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philosopher Heather Reid points out the ancient Greek tradition of sculpting or painting (male) athletes in ways that portray them as something more than mere humans. She notes how “statues depict a philosophical reaction to victory in a religious context,” and that the “balance and harmony we see in artistic images of ancient athletes reflects not so much how the athletes really looked but was rather an expression of the desired state of their souls” (p. 284). Reid later argues that for the ancient Greeks, “athletic beauty symbolizes the triumph of our divine, spiritual nature over our animalistic, physical nature” (p. 287). What does Reid mean? Beyond winning and losing, what does Reid believe is at stake in such sporting contests? What did the fans, or at least the Greek artists, take away from the games? How is it similar and/or different from how sports fans relate to such contests today?
Finally, read through our article on champion Norwegian ski jumper Maren Lunby. She talks about the importance of proper balance, mindfulness, and focused energy. Have a look at the photos and brief video of Lundby jumping. Are these jumps “beautiful” in Reid’s understanding of athletic beauty? Is anything religious being transmitted while she flies through the air? Why or why not?
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