[FOUNTAIN]Competition stirs hearts of modern manMankind can be defined with many qualities and characteristics. The most typical definition would be homo sapiens, a scientific term referring to the modern species of humans. Defining mankind as “men of reason” goes back to the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. The concept began with Rene Descartes, the father of modern philosophy who famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” People started to solve the contradictions of the medieval period with reason and causal relations. Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation replaced God, and mathematical theories drove away divine providence. Mankind distinguished itself from other animals as a reasoning, truth-seeking species.
In the 19th century, the most celebrated quality of humans was the ability to make and use tools. Once enlightened, men began to use their crafts to change the world. Constantly creating something new became an important virtue. On the other hand, destruction and expansion for more production and development was taken for granted. The tragedy of the irrationality is that the sanctity of labor ended up destroying mankind, and machines and products ultimately excluded humans.
The 20th century model was unveiled in 1938 by the Dutch historian and anthropologist Johan Huizinga, who pioneered the concept of the playing man. Play was no longer considered mere rest between labors or a supplementary activity for recharging energy. Mr. Huizinga noted that playing was a part of the primitive human nature. Playing is not a means but a purpose and an act of competition in a given period of time and space and under a fair set of rules.
Sports are the most typical form of play. Ancient sports began as religious rituals. But in modern days, sports are for secular pleasures. While sports once were an entertainment for a few aristocrats, anyone can enjoy them today.
The 2004 Olympic Games opened in Athens yesterday. When reviving the ancient sports games, Pierre de Coubertin’s idea coincided with Mr. Huizinga’s theory. The father of the modern Olympic Games said, “The important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well. The Olympics celebrate the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.