Kobe Bryant is dead. That’s a weird one. As a Laker fan from the late 80s to the early 10s, when I simply lost interest in basketball, he was a court legend to me. Along with Kareem and Magic and Shaq, he was chiseled into the Mount Rushmore of Laker Lore. When I heard, and as I processed, there was a tragic sense of pity that set in. For him, his daughter, the others involved in the crash. Pity.
It isn’t grieving. I didn’t know the man. I didn’t know his daughter or any of his friends or relatives, or the slightest thing about their lives. So I cannot grieve for them personally, but I can feel their loss and a sense of pity for tragedy. My first thought, the first words I spoke to my friends as the news came across, was how precious every moment is for all of us. How fleeting life can be. Even legends are not immune to death. And it can come suddenly. Love is all important.
On a whim, at work the next day, I googled death. We were all engaged in water-cooler talk and I wanted perspective. “How many people die in the world each day?” I asked.
150,000 people died around the globe on Sunday, the same day Kobe Bryant died. According to Wiki, 2/3 of those who died did so from age-related causes. All loss of life is tragic, but we can assume from that statistic that some 100,000 people who die each day at least lived their full lives. The biggest tragedy, of course, is that 50,000 people every day do not. Crashes. Murders. Illnesses. Suicides. Every day. Tragedy.
When I contemplate the totality of that I do grieve. Though I don’t know them all – I don’t know a single person who has died this week – I grieve for the totality of it. The tragedy of death. Life is really hard, but death is final. I feel the struggles they all faced, the struggles you face. I hope that hope prevails in your hearts and in your heads. Life is worth living, every minute we are alive. And, as Kobe Bryant showed us, it can be over in an instant.
I spoke in passing last week about how I learned to face the day, how I taught myself hope, some years ago. I struggled with purpose, with meaning, with self-esteem and with direction. At times I still do, because I’m human. I feared death, not being one to believe in the hereafter, fearing most that my mind would stop thinking. That I could stop dreaming. That thought still chills me, the thought of nothingness. I fear that more than anything. I want to endure.
But I will not. Like everyone else, my time will come.
Mostly now, though, I don’t worry about such things. I don’t lack purpose or meaning or self-esteem or direction because I taught myself how to love myself, how to enjoy this journey, and how to treat every day like a gift. In so doing I have come to need precious little to enjoy this life.
Love. Friendship. A good roof over my head. A sense of personal security. Dogs. Beer. Self-respect.
These are the things I need, and when I do not have them – when any category is lacking – I focus on bringing those deficiencies up to par. I don’t worry whether I have as many loves or friends or roofs or dogs or beers as anyone else, I make sure there is enough for me.
You and I have different needs. You may want as much money as possible. Travel may be the most important thing to you. Your relationship with your children, or your mother, may be everything. Good. Pursue those things, make sure they meet your minimum levels of satisfaction.
Kobe Bryant is dead. It was a weird, sudden, and tragic death. They all are. But we endure. We each have within our power to build our best life. Not a life like Kobe Bryant’s, but our own. Personally, I would be a miserable basketball superstar. I would have to compromise so many of the things that make me happy to live that life. That is probably true for you, too, but only you can know.
Which takes us back to the first, most important lesson of life itself. As old as Ancient Greece:
Once you do you can truly begin to live each day, fully, and appreciate the sunrise, the sunset, the rain, the fog, the snow, the light, and the dark for what they are. You can respect the whole world and yourself. You can appreciate the tragedy of a fallen superstar for what it is. A reminder. A reminder that we are all still alive.
For as long as we are, then, we should truly live.