The unfolding tragedy of the hero, Oscar Pistorius, while in some respects too inconclusive for specific discussion, questions of who did what and maybe why will be answered by experts other than me, is cause for reflective pause.
Lance Armstrong’s implosion, Michael Jordan’s fiftieth birthday, and an empty Baseball Hall of Fame Induction, along with the on going story of concussion, grief, and death that hangs over football and hockey all beg us to reconsider our heroes in sport and what we require of them.
An interview with Mike Piazza on the Daily Show sheds surprising light on the conversation. Mike, the greatest hitting catcher ever, tells John “Being a professional athlete isn’t the most healthy life-style sometimes.”
One of the most surprising challenges in contact sport is that players are unwilling to admit that they are suffering concussion-like symptoms.
Reading a masterful ESPN article on the greatest competitor of our generation is sobering and touching when Michael Jordan says “"It's an addiction. You ask for this special power to achieve these heights, and now you got it and you want to give it back, but you can't. If I could, then I could breathe." I was again struck by what an impossible task it is to be the best at something, and still inhabit the world of the living. Maybe this is why Achilles sailed on Troy knowing what awaited him there. Jordan felt a bit of that. He thought he would die young, never planning to make it to fifty.
All this to say nothing of disability.
He was every bit the sensation of Michael Jordan, or any other who redefined what was possible, but he had no legs.
This is the man who is awaiting trial for murdering his girlfriend.
But as John Hockenberry, the Host of NPR’s “The Take Away,” tells us there is more. Nothing that will make Oscar Pistorius a hero again, nothing that will change the outcome of the court case, but more. More than we may have understood watching him run. Maybe something that will help us understand those whose bodies don’t conform to our perceived norms, and maybe something that will help us understand those who defy our perceived possibility.
None of this changes the fact that a woman is dead and another hero has fallen. Another story, scripted to be inspiring, as twisted back and devoured itself, but maybe this horror can bring us one step closer to allowing our peers on this planet simply to be human. Do something to ease the burden of being different, maybe by realizing how different we all are.
We need to know that it is as acceptable to be strong as it is to be weak, and that what makes each of us valuable is how strength and weakness mix in us. It is acceptable for the double amputee or the basketball star to be upset, and to be angry, and to be imperfect. It is acceptable to sit out a few games or a season to allow your brain to heal.
We must realize that we are the drivers. It is our wish for mastery and the illusion of control that we are paying them to flirt with while we watch. We pay them to play our fantasy of possibility and discard them when they break and prove to only be better than us at one pursuit.
It is unacceptable that we allow so many of our own to be broken on the seawall of our schadenfreude, driven only by our crashing waves fantasy.
Arthur Morris is principal at tenlitre, a consulting firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. He lived just outside Chicago during the 3peat, and remembers what it's like to worship Michael Jordan.
It seems somewhat at least out of touch and maybe disrespectful to go on blogging without acknowledging the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary. But we will go on. Some of us were touched directly by this tragedy, but we all are touched by tragedy. And we go on. Hopefully, we go on having learned and resolved to make other’s burdens lighter when we can and to make the world more safe and loving when we can.
More than add anything of my own to the conversation in the aftermath, I feel compelled to highlight some wonderfully thoughtful voices.
I’ll add this preface:
There is tragedy here, and, I think, an ounce of travesty - the debate on what is preventable and how, is already emotional, but maybe there is no travesty in the past. Travesty is preventable, and in the present we cannot prevent the past from being other than it is.Let’s look at this tragedy and our response with open minds and hearts and politics. There are wonderful examples of politicians laying down their swords already, lets forget red and blue states and just remember that we are all states that morn the violent deaths of children.
I’ll close my preface with a plea to not limit this.
The Arts Organization is about expanding the conversation, finding solutions to problems that act on every level, scientific, emotional, religious, philosophical - every level.So lets be open to confronting the uncomfortable issues of mental health, violence in media (notably American media), and the role of guns in magnifying tragedy (one death is to many, but if we can make it harder to kill one hundred people in a movie theater lets talk about that).
The travesty now is to argue that only one of these factors matter. There is a New Testament precedent for the approach I’m advocating. When Jesus was asked which was more important, tithes to the church or alms to the poor, he recommended that we “do the one and not forget the other.” Pay the tithes and feed the poor. Here I see an opportunity to, regardless of your feelings about the Bible, confront the cultural, legal, and medical components of this epidemic of tragedy.
Now for what other people have said better than I could.
People, guns, and our violence culture are all parts of this terrible puzzle. However we may agree or disagree on the difficult issues surrounding this tragedy, lets resolve to work together solve this puzzle, heal this hurt, curb this violence.