The world record in the Women’s 100 meters dash was set by Florence Joyner. Flo Jo, she was called. She was flamboyant and had an arresting style to keep pace with the steady stride. 10.47. That was the world record she set in 1988. The extraordinary record still stands but there is a story that has been blowing in the wind, ever since.
At the end of the race that Florence Joyner ran in the US Olympic Team Trials in 1988, the wind gauge showed ‘0.0’, which was quite contrary to the windy conditions that day. If tailwind exceeds 2 meters per second, results are not registered as a world record! 100 meters, 200 meters, triple jump, long jump and a few other races fall in this category.
Many studies later on proved that there was tailwind that helped her but for some reason, that record still stands in the books. The point is this: it is for the wind gauge to measure the wind. The athlete running gives it his or her all unaware that the wind is aiding. That’s what tailwind does.
Heads And Tails
That’s the difference between headwinds and tailwinds. Michael Kimmel, an American Sociologist writes.
“To run or walk into a strong headwind is to understand the power of nature. You set your jaw in a squared grimace, your eyes are slits against the wind, and you breathe with a fierce determination. And still you make so little progress.
To walk or run with that same wind at your back is to float, to sail effortlessly, expending virtually no energy. You do not feel the wind; it feels you. You do not feel how it pushes you along; you feel only the effortlessness of your movements. You feel like you could go on forever. It is only when you turn around and face that wind that you realize its strength.”
With me so far? Ok. Here we go into the vortex of privilege.
“Being white, or male, or heterosexual in this culture is like running with the wind at your back. It feels like just plain running, and we rarely if ever get a chance to see how we are sustained, supported, and even propelled by that wind”.
Blowing In The Wind
There are races we run with the wind behind our back. We aren’t aware of the helping hand. We think it is all our dint of hard work and effort. Of course, we have worked hard and there is no shortage of hardships in our lives. Florence Joyner worked as hard as any other athlete, if not more. She ran a superb race too.
Kimmel writes, “It’s difficult and often unpleasant to acknowledge that all the good things that have happened to you are not simply the result of your hard work and talent and motivation but the result of something over which you had no power.”
It is important to sit down and think of the privileges we come with. Gender, skin colour, economics, able body, genes, societal status, upbringing, wealth, sexual orientation, era we live in, education are amongst the sources of privilege we could have. There are many. We need to take a moment to recognise the wind behind our backs that just edges us past the finish line!
To be acquainted with our privileges is an important ask. For it means dealing with subtle notions and many emotions. It is easy to appropriate all our victories to ourselves. The truth however, is blowing in the wind!
Turning To Gratitude
Awareness of my privileges have had me knock on the doorway of gratitude. Just recognising and being thankful for our privileges is the first step in being able to live better . From gender to genes. From parents to the promise they held tight. These were simply not available to many.
Plus, gratitude has some benefits too! According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Professor at University of California Davis. Studies reveal that grateful people experience higher level of positive emotions and are connected to others. Dr. Emmons’ research points to the many benefits of simply keeping a gratitude journal!
The year is ending. It’s not been a stellar year for most in the world. Yet, would you mind indulging me and taking a moment to recognise the privileges that you and I have had even as millions didn’t!
What all are you thankful for? Who all would you like to thank? I made a list yesterday and it is a long one. As the list meandered through the pages I was writing on, I only became more and more aware of the steady hands that have helped me deal with these stern times. Would you want to give it a try? Get a sheet of paper and start writing!
The OWL Despatch
The OWL Despatch is a labour of love. Every fortnight I share five interesting pieces that I stumbled across on the web. Stuff that made me pause and ponder and helps make sense of what’s blowing in the wind. This is edition number Seventy Two.
1. The answer to the questions of “when will we return to office” is blowing in the wind. But video meetings are here to stay. . Here is an essay titled “Zoom and gloom“. What caught me to stay with the piece is this line in the descriptor, “Sitting in a video-conference is a uniformly crap experience. Instead of corroding our humanity, let’s design tools to enhance it”. Do get to it. I mean, get to finishing it and reflecting on it!
2. Tom Whitwell has been writing a post titled “52 things I learned in ____” for the last few years. The 2020 compilation is just as awesome as his earlier compilations were. Did you know, for instance that ” When you lose 1kg of weight, around 840g of that weight is exhaled as carbon dioxide. “
3. Amongst all the productivity tools that I have come across, this one is super interesting. The Power Nap! It’s something that you can learn too. Finally, you can sleep your way to productivity!
4. This is a simple word in the English language. But it can cause many challenges! Actually, this is a very interesting piece to read.
5. Other people’s choices are always a matter of intrigue. When it comes to books, its time to pass judgement! Well, that happens. But the end of the year is when you get the best books assembled together at one place. Founding Fuel has a great collection. Check it out here. Zooming into other people’s study also gives away the books on the shelves! Check these out.
As I Sign Off
I am grateful to Deepak who illustrates with ease. Deepak makes the world richer with his outlook and work. A world of thanks to many friends and subscribers who take the time to read and share The OWL Despatch ahead!
As I leave you to say goodbye to 2020, I have to mention this. I realise the perverse irony of illustrating privilege through a record held by a woman of colour! She has been and will always be an inspiration. She helped set the record straight for me in understanding privilege better.