Thursday, 22 January 2009

"The Flying Scotsman"

I just finished Graeme Obree's autobiography. He's always been an inspiration to me, but learning so much more about him was interesting.

He suffered extremely from Depression. And Borderline Personality Disorder. I am not sure what either of these diseases entail. But I guess they were part of the engine that helped power him to two World Pursuit Championships and two World Records. It's an inspiration. But like reading of Lance Armstrong's exploits at the Tour de France, so untouchable as to kind of frightening and a little bit depressing, from an athletes point of view.

A streak of mental illness must run in all high performing people. But not in the same way as Graeme Obree. I think most athletes, musicians, actors, etc, embrace stress and competition in a positive way and need it. Almost like compulsive risk takers, or gamblers. He seems to have dreaded it. Used it as a means to an end.

There was so much pain in Obree's book. It comes across so heavily in the last chapter that I just threw the book to the ground. Why could he not just suck it up? Or at least try and kill himself properly? It's not hard to think of ways that would lead to a definitive end to our fragile existence. It struck me as very cruel to the people that evidently love him. And incredibly selfish.

The world at large is to blame in big part. Those children who bullied Obree and his brother, without a care but their own satisfaction, at putting another human being down. There is a negative vein running through human nature that allows this to happen. No one is happy being renegade but this is the inevitable position some people are pushed to by the thoughtless and shallow actions of others. Ironically it's the renegades who tend to shine the brightest.

He has given so much to the world through his inspirational performances. On the bike and a brilliance which transcended cycling. His suicidal efforts and depression are perhaps also the down side of harbouring such a gift?

I hope that Obree is happy now and can nurture his talents, even if it's not for the world to see.

I definitely emphasized and identified with him being motivated through social exclusion as a child:

I remember clearly one day, in the winter 1999, lining up for chapel, being mocked for something stupid and shutting myself off from the world. From then, through school I had no evident problems with depression or emotional hurt. I did not have many friends either. Shutting of emotionally is a completely isolating experience as both the negative and positive sides of human interaction are blocked. It was definitely a motivator. I wanted to beat those that mocked me, both on the sports field and academically.

I reconnected with my emotions to some degree at university. My mothers death, dropping out of uni and the Madeira accident still haunt me. Always work to be done.

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