A God, Held High
When the reality of his life emerged, and the mythological image or perception of him as a god was destroyed, the world cried out in anger, disappointment and, for some, outrage.
From Hero to Zero
We could end his story here and say, well there you go, someone else has duped us, let us down, and betrayed our trust. This would not be an unreasonable position to take and we could leave it here and move on. However, there is something quite profound in the whole experience for all of those who became caught up in the entire unfolding drama, myself included.
Mirrors of our own minds
Thus, Lance Armstrong was neither a god nor a devil, even though we made him so. Rather, he was a simple human being. Yet we still put our faith in him, which naturally leads to the question, why? The answer to this could be as numerous as the people who try and answer it. At the fundamental level, we place faith in others, at least in part, because we perceive virtues in them that accord with our own, or we perceive that we lack those virtues that we perceive in others, and wish to be like them. Conversely, we withdraw our faith in others when we see non-virtues that do not accord with what we perceive as virtuous, or we perceive that those non-virtues do not exist within us and we do not wish to be like them.
These perceptions however are not truth. The mere fact that we can identify with the perceived virtue of another is evidence that that virtue exists within us. That is, if we didn’t understand the virtue that we had projected upon another then we could not project it. The same applies for perceptions of non-virtue. Those things we don’t like in others are if fact things we don’t like in ourselves.
Relating through a shared understanding of suffering
Rejecting the projections of the mind
What caused Lance Armstrong to act in the way that he did? An aspect of Mind that perceived itself as fixed in identity, inherently existent, and more important than others. The same aspect of Mind that both you and I suffer from. In the West, we loosely correlate this with our ‘ego’. It is this aspect of Mind from which all human suffering arises, in the form of our attachments, our anger, and our ignorance. The very source of Lance Armstrong’s actions that we perceived as both virtuous and non-virtuous arises from the same source that exists within us. In understanding this, we are provided with an alternative to the projection of ‘hero’ or ‘villain’. Instead, we can appreciate our relatedness, and to offer our compassion, rather than our harsh judgements, to our fellow human beings.
Whilst actions can clearly be delineated as harmful, and thus require rectification through the rule of law and the principles of justice and atonement, we provide ourselves with the opportunity to better appreciate the causes of those actions in a relatable way. In so doing, we also get a chance to tackle the root cause of all of humanity’s suffering, rather than merely treating its symptoms. Lance Armstrong’s story is a familiar motif within our society. A constant reflection of what we are all, to greater or lesser degrees, capable of (irrespective of whether we act upon it or not), not only in our ability to project upon others and act in harmful ways, but more importantly, to understand the shared causes of our individual and collective suffering and to act with compassion.