Life and death matters, maybe.
A few days past, in early morning fog, there was a helicopter crash that killed all nine people aboard. One, Kobe Bryant, was a basketball legend. He was only forty-one years old, retired, yet in the prime of his life. The outpouring of shock, grief, and sadness has been unmatched, with a couple of exceptions. Here is one.
The good in bad
First, it is human nature that tragedy unites people. (You need only to remember the solidarity felt after 9/11.) But I was surprised by the depth of emotion shown in public. Large (in many ways) men openly cried. Partly, I think, because of the stark political divisions that have over taken the country. The sudden tragedy was a reason for people to put aside “tribal” (in reality petty and hurtful) differences, and embrace each other – children, family and friends. Even strangers.
Envy, contrary to conventional thought, can be a positive emotion–an aspirational one– spurring an individual to keep working, harder, until they reach their goal. To keep trying and not give up. Evidenced by Kobe Bryant’s desire to “be like Mike” (Michael Jordan, generally regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time.). Bryant not only wanted to be like Mike, but to surpass him. Which drove Kobe’s extreme devotion to the sport, and his off-the-chart work ethic.
All men are not created equal. A short time ago I was having this discussion with a friend, and used Kobe Bryant as my example. Saying no matter how hard I tried, trained, practiced, and worked – I could never come close to having his talent, skill, and success at basketball. Bryant’s physical and mental abilities were unique to him. He was an N of 1. As are all of us. However, most people fall within the range of average, or typical.
Mother Nature, or Mother Earth is not warm and nurturing, but amoral. If you insist on attaching a feminine mystique, the other two mother archetypes are just as likely to apply. That of the Devouring Mother or Ice Queen. Nature is actually indifferent to what happens and to whom. There may be natural laws, but they can be hostile and unpredictable beyond our control.
The meaning of life
matters, but only to human sensibilities. The biosphere and planet don’t care about you, or I. That fact can be depressing and overwhelming. The idea that, no matter who you are, you can die without warning is no comfort, or guide, to living your life. That life has no meaning is no way to live.
I must live as though my life matters. Envy is one way we strive to live and be better, because seeing what others have achieved gives us some purpose, some thing to aspire toward. A direction. When we come to the venerable, proverbial “fork in the road”, the illusion of choice gives a sense of purpose and control.
I once asked a friend, “What’s it all mean?” Her response was, “I don’t know.” With a look of puzzlement, then hurt, then anger, and finally disgust (in the blink of an eye) on her face suggesting, “How dare you ask me to explain myself?”
“I thought you loved me?”
I found this piece today, the day after the Super Bowl (controversial in its own right) and thought it worth linking. It’s the uncomfortable part of Kobe Bryant’s legacy – but which also speaks to his uniqueness.