Jim Thorpe and
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…”
We have all heard that there is no such thing as an original idea, only imitations and improvements upon old ones. And of course, to some extent, we know this to be true. From great artists, to great composers, to great athletes, to entrepreneurs, rare is the unique thought birthed in a vacuum.
Even the “eureka” (Greek for “I found it”) of Archimedes when discovering the method for determining the purity of gold was dependent upon wisdom passed down from a previous age. Imitation, then, is a fact of life. But what to imitate is the real question. What or who are we to watch and follow?
It is said that Jim Thorpe, probably the greatest all around athlete in American history, had excellent powers of observation and imitation. He had incredible athletic ability. But it was his careful observation of technique and accurate imitation of the same that allowed him to do so much so well.
In 1911-12, while he was chosen as an All-American in college football, he also not only competed, but excelled in: track and field, baseball, lacrosse, basketball, ice hockey, swimming, boxing, tennis, and archery. In the Olympic Games of 1912, he was proclaimed the world’s greatest athlete when he won both the pentathlon (5 events!) and decathlon (10 events!).
It was not possible for him to actually practice all of these sports. So he watched others perform, imagined his own technique carefully, and then imitated what he had seen and imagined as closely as possible. Not a bad strategy.
When it comes to skillful living (the literal translation of the word “wisdom”), a similar kind of imitation is not necessarily a bad idea either. In fact, our scripture for this Sunday leads us specifically down this very path.
The question is: what and who are we to imitate? And how can we be truly ourselves if we are trying to be like someone else? Good questions, indeed! And ones that need to be answered. Let us join together each Sunday and discover together what the Bible has to tell us.