The Big Picture


On the way to Multnomah Falls, Oregon, 2014

by cheri block


Being small is rarely about size.

We all know people who choose to be small rather than big, petty rather than generous, and selfish rather than selfless.

And, we have all been that way, some people more than others.

At times:

Standing on a vacant beach, surrounded by hot sand and noisy surf, we might see a sliver of the Big Picture.

Running to the top of a wooded trail, sucking oxygen, expanding of our lungs and feeling strong and accomplished, we may glimpse at clarity.

Gazing out into the New Mexican high desert, dotted with Pinion Pines and silhouetted against a scarlet hot sky, we may see that the opera of life seems momentary and trivial.

An opportunity:

To be big and magnificent, the stuff of Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and Ra.


Islam El Shehaby, who became smaller than a dust particle in the Sinai Desert by refusing to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their Olympic Judo match.


About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
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29 Responses to The Big Picture

  1. Jim Murray says:

    Every martial art has a similar code of etiquette. Respect for your opponent is a key in all. El Shehaby violated that code in a shameful manner, not once but twice. After he refused to shake his opponent’s hand, he backed away. The referee ordered him to return and bow to his opponent. He returned but merely nodded his head in a another clear sign of disrespect. The second occasion of disrespect extended to the referee whose direction he refused to follow. In the world of Islam, he may be seen as a hero. In the world of judo, he made himself an outcast.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Jim, Thanks for visiting my blog and for your astute comment. I spent about five years taking my grandson to Tae Kwon Do so that he could earn a black belt. Master Sung Woo taught all of his students the discipline and respect inherent in a martial art. It really seemed like an art form, to me. Respect for your opponent and learning to win and lose was all part of it. Being “big,” in other words. Excuses can be made worldwide for Islam El Shehaby’s behavior, something we tend to do in an attempt to “understand” bad behavior.

  2. Paul Costopoulos says:

    Olympic truce forgotten. Too bad. Yet, in france, Muslims went to mass to honor the slain priest. In Cairo Muslims and Copts have been protecting each other’s cult buildings to prevent extremists assaults. In Montreal, at McGill, Concordia and Montreal U. student associations try to promote understanding between Semite estranged brothers and you have this guy shadowing the others efforts. He’s no better than you beloved Trump. Same ilk.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Paul, Thank you (in both comments) for providing wonderful examples of moderate Muslims’ trying to make up for the barbarism of radical Islam. The point of this post was to observe that Mr. El Shehaby acted very small on the Olympic stage and violated the soul of Olympic spirit. I, for one, have not watched any of the Olympics as they are not amateurs any more. It’s a bit of a turn-off.

  3. wkkortas says:

    I would think that two Olympic athletes, given the amount of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication all pointing toward a few brief moments on the world stage (and, indeed, they are both members of a very small fraternity) would realize they have a great deal more in common than they have in dissimilarity (I suspect that rings equally true for most Israelis and Egyptians). Mr. Murray’s description of El Shehaby as shameful is entirely on-point, not only in terms of the etiquette of his sport, but of the expectations of common humanity as well.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi wk,
      As to your comment,yes! That this kid would devote a lifetime to a sport, achieving expertise enough to make an Olympic team, only to be sent home by the IOC for a political stunt….pretty small.

  4. potsoc says:

    That guy is a shame. He overshadows his brethren’s effort to mend things between the estranged Semite brothers. In France, after the slaying of an old priest, muslims attended a funeral mass to honor the deceased, in Egypt’ Muslims and Copts have been known to guard each other’s cult buildings during services. In Montreal, our three universities have Palestinian-Jewish associations promoting mutual understanding, our Christian, of all strpes, communities, Jewish and Muslims have created a common council to settle conflicts and fight prejudices. Then you a Shehaby, must be friends with the Donald.

  5. Brig says:

    Shameful indeed to disrespect an opponent like he did. The Olympics have always been political, just more so it seems now. The coverage was abysmal and so one sided, I could not watch much of it.
    And the stories that never got told in mass media… because PC people!
    Those that think Muslims want the same things the majority of Americans want are going to be proven wrong. History will repeat, it is sad that few seem to learn from it.
    PaulPot… You can be a Muslim, a liberal Democrat, and a member of the Clinton crime family all at the same time. Dang this is a great country, just be aware that there are sheep dogs.

  6. JFB says:

    Dear Paul,
    With all due respect, I think you are missing the point. I don’t think I need to explain myself, do I? If so, see other responses.

  7. Richard says:

    A handshake is best as spontaneous between individuals, a mark of mutual goodwill.

    In particular, it is used at the outset and conclusion of business negotiations or to seal a deal.

    It is rarely a sign of intimacy.

    A handshake ceases to have meaning when it is required. In such cases it merely provides the opportunity for a futile demonstration. Onlookers should not regard offer or refusal as possessing any particular meaning or intent.

    It is relatively standard for lawyers to shake hands on meeting or parting, whether on good terms or bad. It provides a sense of reassurance, often unjustified, and experience teaches that use or non-use of the gesture is usually irrelevant to feelings or outcome.

    An unpleasant development is the aggressive multiple offer of a handshake. In order to avoid damage the hand should be quietly withdrawn on first refusal, ideally with a smile.

    As a symbol of civilised conduct, it is of limited effect and only a tentative indication of future behaviour.

    The pity is to attach any importance to this primitive precaution to test for a weapon, or to make far-reaching conclusions. According to one report, the Egyptian was under pressure from social media and his antipathy was political, not racial: nuances impossible to discern from the acts or lack of them.

    A handshake is impossible during such spiritual commune with nature as you describe, but a bow could be apt.

    I like the picture, though. 🙂

    • Cheri says:

      Dear Richard,
      I disagree with you. The IOC (even those ineffective twits) sent him home for his violation of Olympic standards.

      Among the followers of radical Islam, he is a hero for refusing to bow or shake hands or anything with his Israeli victor. You cannot separate radical Islam’s hatred for the little Satan ( Israel ) full of Jews from politics.

      • Richard says:

        Dear Cheri,
        I take your point, and attach no Cyberquillion epithet.
        Do you imply that the Olympic standard in question is well-advised and wisely enforced? If so, that is where I take issue. It provides an opportunity to make a petty demonstration and the publicity surrounding the application of a sanction only raises feelings unnecessarily and draws publicity. The multiple offer of a greeting by the Israeli served only to exacerbate the ill. Both athletes are ignorant of the true meaning of the Olympic Games. We ask ourselves: would this be so had they been amateurs
        The whole incident and the response is contrary to the spirit of the Olympics and plays into the hands of those who want perpetual trouble and conflict, whatever the reasons. Yes, political criticism of Israel is often a mask for anti-semitism, but Israel is a democracy – the only one in the middle east in these fraught times, and a mature one – and political debate is to be welcomed, not silenced. If this means keeping anti-semitic gestures in perspective, then so be it. It seems to me, despite his athletic prowess, or lack of it, the Egyptian was simply morally weak, like so many of us.
        Inevitable politicisation of the Olympics recalls the ghastly 1936 Games and its signal of what was to come, but it would be wrong to infer that from the current incident or imagine an anti-semitic world order or suppose that there is no anxious vigilance among decent people, who are the majority and determined there shall be no repetition.

        • Cheri says:

          I agree with much of what you write, Richard. And no, if I implied that the old Olympic standard is “wisely advised and enforced,” then thank you for your correction. Shoreacres notes that she hasn’t watched the Olympics in decades. We, too, have not watched any of these Olympic games because Ron cannot stand the fact that most of the athletes are paid. We did watch the opening ceremonies of both the Beijing and London Summer Games.

          Did I infer that there was no “anxious diligence among decent people”? Sure, there are good people but few speak up because most people are sheep.

          I also agree that just because one disagrees with Israel and its politics does not necessarily make one anti-Semitic.

          However, the Arab world is still in shambles. Iran has capitalized on this fact (albeit the Persians are not Arabs) by arming Hezbollah and creating tremendous disruption. The Arab world, governed by Islam, hates the Jewish State of Israel and all of the Western ideals, save our need for petrol. Do you disagree with that statement?

          ISIS is the vicious explanation mark at the end of all this hatred.

          Ahhh…so we come to a politicized Olympic stage. Sure. The media jumps on every story that might sell the “news.” In the case of Islam El Shehaby–I believe he was a small sore loser who was particularly upset that he had lost to an Israeli. I’m also sure Mr. El-Shehaby does not like Jews.

        • Christopher says:

          “……Israel is a democracy………and a mature one……”

          I wonder what the millions of Palestinians living under the many-decades-long Israeli occupation, would say about this?

          • Cheri says:

            Dear Christopher,
            This post and its point have nothing to do with your comment. I realize you are responding to Richard’s comment.

            Although I am a teacher and have listened patiently to many divergent viewpoints, I do not have the patience nor the interest in moderating this discussion. I hope you understand.

          • Richard says:

            I should not wish to predict what millions of separate voices might say in response to your sweeping premise.

            A minority will not be satisfied until every Jew is driven off the planet. Now what might you say to that?

            OK, OK, you are not an anti-semite but your question sustains anti-semites. A little more care by you when you frame political questions would be welcome.

  8. Christopher says:

    The correct etiquette for judoka when beginning and ending a contest is to bow to each other Japanese style. From what I’ve learned, the Egyptian judoka nodded his head to his Israeli opponent when their bout ended. A nod of the head is in fact a small bow – not so?

    Therefore what the Egyptian judoka did was within the rules of judo etiquette. He therefore did nothing wrong. This incident would consequently seem as good an example as any of a storm in a teacup.

  9. shoreacres says:

    In a somewhat different context, Hope Solo proved herself entirely classless after the team’s loss to Sweden. Poor sportsmanship clearly knows no boundaries. When political divisions are added to the mix, it’s repellent at best.

    That’s really all I can say, since I stopped watching the Olympics more than a decade ago.

  10. Chris says:

    I want to respond to how powerful and beautiful I felt your writing was. As I began to read “The Big Picture” I’m creating a mind movie of being on the beach, of running to the top of the mountain, of gazing out into the desert; I felt BIG and MAGNIFICENT. Then there’s this jolt and I’m given a picture of this small and insignificant nothing of a human being in Islam El Shehaby. The contrast, so powerful, so beautiful. I will not forget this piece of history nor should I. Thank you.

    • Cheri says:

      Dear Chris,
      Thank you! You discerned my intention in creating the Big only to contrast with the small.
      I hope all is well with and yours. I look forward to reconnecting and getting a Big Hug in Arizona this winter.🌵

    • Richard says:

      I too felt the power of Cheri’s words, Chris. Unfortunately, I was distracted by the small.
      Thank you for rescuing me.

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