I knew a woman who was preoccupied with death from her first consciousness. An extremely gifted person—in attractiveness, intellectually, athletically, and artistically—she responded to her distress by seeking refuge in drugs and alcohol, which harmed her in all of these areas (although she returned to music and found deserved, if belated, acclaim).
The most famous person at these Olympics is Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first person to repeat as 100 and 200 meter champion in successive Olympics. Only Bolt didn't break his own Olympic or world record in winning the 200 meter gold medal. The reason? He was too busy showboating and gloating, even before crossing the finish line, to accomplish another such remarkable feat (Bolt holds the existing world and Olympic records).
In years to come, Bolt's antics will be—at best—forgotten or forgiven in respect for his accomplishments. Only his race times will be inscribed for eternity, or at least for as long as our current civilization persists. "I guess he didn't want to break his own record—just to silence the critics," was how one commentator assessed Bolt's performance.
Bolt's performance, both psychologically and athletically, contrasted to another the same day—that of Kenyan David Rudisha in the 800 meters. Rudisha's unique accomplishment? Setting a world record on the London Olympic track. Sebastian Coe, British running great who headed the London organizing committee, described Rudisha's performance:
"That was simply an unbelievable performance. David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final (Rudisha rushed to the lead and never relinquished it). Instead of just doing enough to win the race, he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the world record as well. Rudisha's run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories."
Bolt, on the other hand, is a slave to his immediate gratification, rather than his immortality. That's one way to go. But such gratifications usually fade, and leave a residue of regret. Thus, the urge for immediate gratification is part and parcel of addiction, while reversing addiction requires developing larger purposes and greater goals.
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P.S. (August 12): Readers of this post must read Jack Sprat's comment (which is too long to reprint here).
P.S.S. (August 13): Even the losers in the 800 race were ennobled (compare with the experience of being a foil to Bolt). This, from 5th-place finisher, American Nick Symmonds:
“I did everything possible. I brought a 1:42.9, which I never thought I’d humanly be able to do, redefining my own limits, which is really what the sport is about, competing at the highest level and redefining what you are capable of. I just feel really honored.”