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You Are Most Alive When Sacrificing for Others

The Boys In The Boat tells the story of how nine underdogs, working-class boys from Washington, upset the elite rowers of the Ivy League and then went on to defeat Adolf Hider's rowers to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Their whole strategy depended on teamwork. The author of the story, David James Brown, describes the teamwork involved in rowing:

There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. … It's called "swing." It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others. … Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin co slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action—each subtle turning of wrists—must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other. Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars. Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that's what a good swing feels like.

Possible Preaching Angles: John Ortberg adds: The crew's mentor, George Pocock, explained to them what he called "the spiritual value of rowing" as "the losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole." He explained the strange wonder of how-at the moment you are most sacrificing yourself for others—you are also most fully yourself, more fully alive than you'll ever be again. Pocock added, "When you're rowing well, … its nearing perfection. And when you near perfection, you're touching the Divine."

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