Saturday, 2 August 2014

Creating a Web of Plausibility

The recent Storyville documentary on Lance Armstrong, trailered below, is fascinating viewing because it shows us all an eerie side to ourselves we'd rather ignore. Click here for David Walsh's take on the whole thing - also fascinating.

True, the Armstrong Fraud went on for so long due to deliberate and premeditated lying and obfuscation from Armstrong and the handful of people around him, but also because the vast majority of pro-cyclists were doping too and therefore had neither the moral high ground nor the moral energy to take him on.

But perhaps the most uncomfortable truth about it all was that we wanted the lie to be true. We all wanted to believe that it was possible for a guy not only to beat a most aggressive form of cancer, but then recover to become one of the greatest endurance athletes ever. Of course, one cannot deny that could be possible, but in Armstrong's case it wasn't. Nothing brought it home so clearly than seeing again footage (that I had seen a hundred times before), only to realise that whilst performing these incredible breakaways on the mountain stages, he was not suffering, not out of breath, no emotion, nothing. Just a calculated drug-fuelled machine, fulfilling his contract of "winning" races.

Everyone wanted to back this winning horse and when you tied this parable of sporting success to our human struggle against cancer and the Livestrong Foundation, the lie became even harder to deny or diffuse in the public consciousness. No one wanted to be the party pooper who made a wreck of this all-round feel-good gravy train apart from a couple of prophets who saw through it in the forms of Paul Kimmage and David Walsh.

Armstrong's deception was so effective because it's the lie we all want to believe about ourselves. The lie that we are the masters of our own destinies and that we are strong enough to beat up all our opposition (be it in Armstrong's case other cyclists, critics or cancer) then to stand in the glory of our victory and giving gifts to all those who idolise us (in Armstrong's case - hope of overcoming or even a cure for cancer) all the while massaging our egos reliving the moments of our epic rise to power with all those who love to receive drops of our reflected vainglory.

The shocking truth (or to use the biblical term, the mystery of sin: Rom. 1:25, Rev.17:5-7) about the human condition is that we have a toxic addiction to telling lies to ourselves and each other about everything, but especially about who God is and we crave that others reinforce this web of deceit. At its most basic level, we know this as "tolerance" but it can and has grown into full force extermination programmes in an effort not to have the lie exposed for what it is. If you don't believe me, you're only admitting and reinforcing the power of the lie in you - let that thought mess with your brain for a bit…

We need to be rescued not from our actions, but from ourselves (Col.1:21-22) not just once, but every moment of every day. (1 John 1:8-9)

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