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Monthly Archives: July 2015

By Tom Demerly.

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Protesters outside Walter Palmer’s dental office, which is now closed, on Wednesday, July 29th in Minnesota.

Cecil the Lion is dead.

Cecil’s death and our reactions say a lot about mankind. None of it is good.

People are calling for the death of the hunter who killed Cecil the Lion. “He should die the same way Cecil died…” “He doesn’t deserve to live…” “I’d shoot him myself and not feel a thing…” are comments on my Facebook feed.

The hunter is a dentist from Minnesota. Social media and news reports say his practice is closed now, he has removed his social media and he and his family have received threats.

The people who write those threats aren’t far removed from the act they are criticizing. While these sentiments seem harmless and passionate on social media they are the violent rants of people removed from the harsh reality of much of the world. And they feed that harsh reality with their vitriol.

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A friend and wise man named Seth Y. observed on Facebook that the same week Cecil the Lion was killed a 12-year old girl in Nigeria blew herself up and killed 10 people in a suicide attack. The day before a 17-year old girl did the same, killing 20. There is also a civil war in Sudan, on the same continent where Cecil the Lion died, that has displaced 2 million people, many suffering from malaria, dysentery and cholera. There isn’t much about that in the social media feeds.

We didn’t grow up on charming Disney animated movies about Nigerian suicide bomber girls or cholera epidemics, so there is little sympathy for the suicide bombing or the refuge crises. Instead we are incensed by the crucifixion of a Kimba surrogate and, in our vast empathy and righteousness, call for the perpetrators head. That makes us not much better.

That’s no more right that killing Cecil in the first place.

Violence and cruelty only end one way: stop the cycle. Stop the cycle of revenge, retaliation, retribution. This includes the vitriol toward the man who shot Cecil. There is a great Arabic proverb, “The wisest is the one who can forgive.” And another that says, “It is wise to forgive, but unwise to forget.”

The sympathy for Cecil the Lion is well founded. He died a horrible and needless death. But the calls for harm to his killer have no more merit than the character of the man who killed him. That man lives in his own private prison. He carries the burden of every life he has taken. To threaten him is to join him.

Our outrage at Cecil the Lion’s murder is well founded. Our behavior surrounding it is shameful. Our cycle of justified violence and exploitation of nature is the downward spiral that could eventually end this illusion we call “civilization”. There really never has been much civil about it.

If you are truly outraged at the needless and tragic death of Cecil the Lion, then do something about it. Volunteer one Sunday at an animal shelter. Donate $50 to a fund that preserves wildlife. Write a letter to the Zimbabwean Embassy in the U.S. (Embassy of Zimbabwe, 1608 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 [202] 332-7100), adopt an animal from a shelter and give it a good life. Do something positive so the tragic and needless death of this lion becomes a rallying point for good rather than a lynch mob that destroys another life.

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By Tom Demerly.

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When he started, no one thought he could do it: Complete 50 Ironman distance triathlons in 50 states in 50 days. But he’s done it. And in doing so, he’s changed our concept of what is possible. He is James Lawrence from Utah, 38 years old; The Iron Cowboy.

Ironman has become a tattoo, a brand and an object of conspicuous consumption. A logo on a warehouse club fleece jacket bought after a race.

Before that, back on a beach in Hawaii on February 18, 1978, it was something else. And thanks to Iron Cowboy, it gets back to its roots of pushing through barriers rather than stopping at them to buy a logo-ed jacket and get a tattoo.

Iron Cowboy ran straight through all the marketing. Knocked down the barriers. He reminds us that Anything is Possible. And he did it without the licensing fees and waiting lists. He really Just Did It. The finish line is also tomorrow’s start line. It really isn’t over when it’s over. It’s only over when we stop.

One of the things he demonstrated is that we’ve been pretty lazy, pretty complacent, somewhat petty and oddly “consumer-ish” in our approach to Endurance sports. We just want the tattoo. And fleece jacket. And hat. And bumper sticker. And license plate. And bike number. And…

Ironman built it, and we bought it. Until The Cowboy, it had gotten stagnant, the needle stuck at 140.6.

There are longer races, there are harder races; Marathon des Sables is one. But without the mega promotion and the TV deals and the brand licensing they have remained off the everyman’s radar.

Iron Cowboy ran around the outside of the licensing fees that have been attached to the use of any reference to The Full Distance and made a mockery of dots and “M”s and tattoos. And in doing so he undid, in 50 days, what has taken nearly four decades to do. He reminds us that human limits exist only in our minds. That, unless we continue to push our concept of limits, that wet blanket we call “impossible” begins to settle heavily over us.

When Ironman Hawaii started it was also thought to be impossible by some, injurious by most. Now finishing Ironman is commonplace. It isn’t easy, but it is common.

So The Cowboy just raised the bar. And while Ironman, just one, lowly Ironman done in good conditions after months of training, good nutrition and careful tapering, is somehow made “smaller” in context by James Lawrence, the “Iron Cowboy”, it also remains a significant challenge.

But now we are reminded that there are many accomplishments beyond the finish line at Ironman, and that there is much more to our capabilities than logos or tattoos.

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James Lawrence, 38 years old from Utah, completes 50 consecutive Ironmans in 50 days in 50 states on July 26, Sunday.