What a piece of work is man

Photo credit: Global Sports Comms https://twitter.com/globalsportscom/status/828895683298131968

This often quoted line from Shakespeare’s infamous lead character, Hamlet, strikes a chord for me at the moment.

I remember Hamlet’s lasting messages, about 30 years ago at school, when we read the script in class, and were fortunate enough to then watch Kenneth Branagh play the lead at a production at The Barbican.

Since I last wrote a blog – over on the sister site to this one https://definitelymaybe.me/2019/02/04/transformation-of-the-third-sector/ – countless global news events have made Hamlet’s tormented reflections about the state of the world only more resonant.

I was sat on the balcony of The Galleface hotel, in Colombo, back in February when I wrote that last piece. Issy and me had that morning come from breakfast at The Shangri-La, a short walk away, and one of the hotels in which a terrorist blew himself up on Easter Sunday earlier this month.

Out of such horrific acts can only come the positive inklings of resilience. All else is pervasive and lasting devastation.    

I don’t feel qualified to write about terrorism, or about religion. Instead, I surf the web in search of experiences and ideas from others. However, too many options and opinions, in turns out, exist there to help offer up definitive statements.

Christopher Hitchens, eloquent and stubborn in his pursuit of tackling the negative impact of religion in the world, is one of my “go-to” voices in the crowd. Hitchens speaks power to truth in a way that throws me temporary morsels of salvation. Although I find they don’t last that long.

Alternatively, I’ve been listening to some of the many brilliant minds recently interviewed by Russell Brand (alongside various escapist, comedic worm-holes that also soak up the odd lost hour of my day) however it was two days ago, a week since the Colombo bombings, watching the London Marathon, that a more sustaining relief was offered up – in the form of Eliud Kipchoge.

Even tip-toeing on the fringes of a discussion that includes any of the terrorist acts which have taken place just in this year alone, is complex. That the compelling footage of a Kenyan man running the streets of London should provide a worthy counter in the face of other events or happenings, of the kind that took place in Sri Lanka only 7 days prior, is not the purpose of this post.

In making any sense of our lives while we are conscious, for me, seeking to learn from the way in which Kipchoge lives his, I’ve found plenty to mull over.

Kipchoge is someone I’ve followed for just a few years. He won in London on Sunday – his fourth London victory (a world record in itself) with relative ease – or so it appeared – and claimed the second fastest time ever recorded. He was mesmerizing to watch for each of the 2 hours, 2 minutes and 37 seconds that it took him to do so.

His attempt to go under 2 hours, in the Nike documentary “Breaking2” provided a window into the possible in December 2016 and, in subsequent documentaries, such as “Eliud” we’ve had fuller access into Eliud Kipchoge’s day-to-day wellbeing.

He believes that “No human is limited” – he wears a wristband with this motif – and he exudes positivity in his interviews about the power of running and the potential of the mind to open up possibilities for each of us.

Kipchoge is the most successful marathon runner of all time. The money in his bank (several million dollars) invested not, refreshingly, in the materialistic trappings of celebrity life or of sporting stardom, that so epitomizes others in the public eye.

Instead, he spends 6 days a week training at a running camp away from his family home. His sacrifices, in terms of his pursuit for success, marked by a humility and an affection towards others that inspires me wholeheartedly.

In his own words, “the more you sacrifice, the more successful you can become.”

As an atheist, the only act of worship I imagine I’ll be able to commit to anytime soon may very well just be in heaping praise towards individuals such as Eliud Kipchoge, and being able to recall his ‘form’ as a source of motivation.

A shining light indeed.


I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither…

(Hamlet, William Shakespeare)

Eliud Kipchoge. Photo credit: http://www.runnersworld.com

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