@JuicyGamingDK1

Being Alive

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.

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:

“Know thyself.”

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.

31 thoughts on “Being Alive

  1. Kobe’s death was tragic…. and shocking. But yes, people die everyday. We have lost my BIL and the son of a close friend in the past 2 weeks. We cry, we grieve, we remember…. and hopefully appreciate the ones we still have a little more. 150,000 people may die everyday…. but 360,000 are born as well. The circle of life.
    ❣️

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I googled that number too and thought, don’t the rest of those 149,999 lives deserve as much reflection?

    For as long as we are, then, we should truly live.

    Or not. The Universe doesn’t care and will not mourn your existence, coming or going. And whether you lived or merely survived this mortal coil, in the end, it won’t have mattered. There is no grand scheme, only the illusion of one.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. They absolutely do, my friend, they absolutely do. For those close to each of the 150,000 the impact of their loss is felt. The impact of the loss of Kobe Bryant, on me, is minimal. I didn’t know the man, or his family or friends. I can recognize his death, even mourn the loss of another human being, but (like I said) I can’t grieve for it. I can grieve for the many we lose but not for the individual I do not know.

      As for the universe? Whether it cares or not that I came and left is incidental. I matter to me. 😉

      Like

    1. I understand. I cannot feel their individual loss that immensely, because their impact on my own life was minimal. The impact of all humanity on my life is great, so I feel the immense daily loss far more. I suspect, though, your level of empathy is far greater than my own. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful post, Tom. But here’s the thing regarding “that thought of nothingness”: it only panics us because, quite literally, the human mind cannot conceive of nothing. It can conceive of blackness, silence, darkness, etc., all of which are “somethings” or at least incapable of conception without their opposite “something”. Prior to birth, all of us were in this “state”, which is to say, we weren’t in any state at all because we didn’t yet exist. We can’t conceive of that, either. Whether contemplating a pre-birth past or a post-death future, our brains are insufficient for the task. As long as we are conscious, we cannot understand what it is to be otherwise. Not to mention, all of us DO “experience” this state of being every single night when we’re in dreamless, non-R.E.M. sleep. So what terrifies you and I and pretty much every other thinking individual is a state of affairs that we pass through every single day. Imagine that. There’s truly nothing to fear.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Paul. It’s true what you say, I have nothing to fear. When I am gone it will not feel like anything at all. I almost included the line, in the text above, that I would rather burn for eternity in a fictional inferno than become nothing, because at least then at least I’d still be alive. But I didn’t. I wasn’t sure I could defend the statement and, either way, it felt too strong an expression.

      From nothing, to nothing. I accept that. But I’d much rather endure forever, as you know. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air,” said the poet Thomas Gray. The ones we don’t see aren’t any less valuable, and I wouldn’t say their sweetness is “wasted”–which is why, quotable as it is, I really hate that poem. Let me go with John Donne instead: “any man’s death diminishes me,/because I am involved in mankind.”
    What you’ve got me thinking about here is how Bryant’s death isn’t any more or less significant than the others–they’re all significant–but because he directly or indirectly touched so many his untimely loss is a reminder of how valuable every life is.
    I just hope I’m ready when the bell tolls for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ready or not, we shall go. Gray and Donne both nailed the impression this made on me. So many flowers bloom and wilt around the world, so many start and finish everyday. I will not know any of them. The number that I know compared to the number that I don’t makes the number I know as close to nothing as to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Right under this beautiful and profound exploration, there’s a promo for your blog post “The Coming Of Him” and a puppy picture of Marvel, and there’s the balance in the universe right there, as things go and things come and we grieve and we rejoice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is as fitting a thing as there is. I have known grief in loss, when my mother died and when my puppies have. Grief, to me, is something we feel when we lose something truly close, truly irreplaceable in our own lives. Kobe Bryant was not that, to me. I am sad he is gone, sad so many are each day. But I am also inspired by those who enter the world each day. Hopefully they each grow to be good and wise and have a positive impact on all those they encounter. What a world this could be if, in our quickened time, we could all be such a creature, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Tom.
    You’ve hit on key aspects of Stoic philosophy, which I’ve found helpful in navigating life: Live today as if it is your last because tomorrow isn’t assured; you could be gone in an instant, so don’t waste what time you have; strive to be your best self every day.
    It’s good to be reminded of these ideals, even if the reminder comes with the tragic news of the deaths of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. 🙂

      I’ve been told before that my personal philosophy was akin to the Stoics, which is pretty cool. I’ve never read any of it though I’ve obviously heard a lot about it. I think it validating to have independently come upon a personal philosophy that was discovered so long ago and survived through so many ages. ❤️

      Maybe they were on to something, eh? 😉

      Like

  7. Brother Tom! Yes, RIP Kobe. I think we can feel a sense of loss out of the respect We had for a Kobe as a basketball player. He knew how to do his job. We enjoyed watching him. His daughter was a part of him, therefore we can identify with that loss too. But the other lives lost on that helicopter deserve to be mentioned right along with Kobe… that’s the media’s issue, not ours. I can honestly relate to what you said about the darkness. I think Paul covered why we should not be worried about that in a previous comment… I have a challenge for you! Read Many Masters, Many Lives by Brian Weiss. It’s an easy read, a very interesting story! I read it in two days! Weiss is a psychiatrist. He practices hypnosis, unexpectedly starts finding out many patients experience ‘past lives.’ He tries to debunk these claims! The rest is just too mind blowing to spill. I’d be very interested in what your analytical mind would surmise from the content of this book! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sister Kim! I agree they all deserve the same respect and recognition, so many lives snuffed out so quickly (and for what?). But everyone knows who Kobe is, even if they don’t know him. I understand how his loss can be so affecting to so many, but I think sometimes the emotion that is brought upon by the loss of a celebrity is misguided. For those who did not know him but reportedly feel his loss as if they did, there is something missing within them. His loss had no greater impact upon them than the loss of all the others aboard, indeed no more impact than the other 150,000 people that died that day. I would caution those, then, to truly examine the focus of their own lives. Is that for me to say? I guess I think it is. 😂

      When I left the Christian faith, more than 30 years ago, I did it in steps, in waves. I had no intention to abandon religion when I started to question, but I simply wanted better answers. Because I was raised with a certain belief system I didn’t think I’d find atheism (in fact, I swore I would not!). But the more I dug into different belief systems, reincarnation included, the more I found that the process of faith is the magic of the mind and its ability to convince us our imaginations are real, not the magic of the world. We are all storytellers and we pick the story that suits us (or does not challenge us) best.

      I added the book to my list, because I’m always open to new ideas. Being open to possibility is what led me to this place of separating fiction (we are special creatures with the possibility of endless life) from fact (we are animals with advanced brains, born from nothing and die to the same).

      Is that for me to say? I guess I think it is. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm… do we have an hour to just chat? Many good points you raise! Yes, it is really OK for you to make each point! Always. I have some questions for you…

        Yes, we may be ‘advanced animals’… I really don’t know. I do know there is good and there is evil in this world. Would you agree evil people walk this earth? How do you KNOW what is right and what is wrong? How do you KNOW what is good or evil? How do we KNOW?

        Is it programmed into our animal brains? Just something to ponder…

        I honestly believe we are here to learn something… I believe we are energy… moving through life on possibly one planet or another, learning what we need to become completely enlightened energy masses. Bodies are temporary. I’m not a subscriber to ”Aliens Are Us’ by any means. I truthfully think that we must learn lessons to reach a plateu ‘level’ or maybe a ‘plane’ of eternity.

        Ok, that’s a bit deep. It is a much more simple belief than I am making this out to be! Basically, stupid and mean people have a lot of learning left to do… I HAVE A LOT of learning left to do… this will not be my first attempt at learning, it is probably my 6th or 21st time around, who knows?

        Being an atheist is a ‘neat/complete’ idea, I tried! Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. The end. But it just didn’t answer the nagging questions I had. (And I honestly believe you have done your research! So I am just asking for one more book…I want to hear your thoughts!)

        I was raised Lutheran. We like our ‘lutheran guilt’ but we aren’t bible bangers by any means. In fact, we look at the bible more like lessons, not specifically the WORD of the big guy… or guys or gals or both… ??? Well some lutherans… nope, I’ll leave it there!

        I’ll stop now. The book isn’t about God. That is why people have such a strong reation to it. Where is God in this idealology??? In fact, religion is not ever the topic. Do people live multiple lives to learn what the ‘Masters’ are trying to teach us? Do we keep coming back with the SAME people currently in our lives? It is a very hard theory to swallow. I think, it is much scarier than atheism! Nothing ‘magic’ about it.
        🙂 Kim

        Thanks Brother Tom, as always, an iconic visit to TBT!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a few minutes more, and talking is my thing. 😉

    [Would you agree evil people walk this earth?]

    I think people walk the earth and do evil things, yes. I don’t think anyone is inherently good or evil, only their actions are definable. Evil comes primarily from self-interest and a disregard for the interests or well-being of others. A person cannot be good or evil, but can be defined that way by their actions and intentions.

    [How do you KNOW what is good or evil?]

    We cannot KNOW anything, only interpret through our personal lenses. Adolf Hitler and his followers thought they were the good guys, and that the Allies were evil. Extreme terrorists think that they are the good guys, battling the evil imperial Americans. And they are right, at times, that America has done unspeakable things that would and should be considered evil. But America has also done great and noble things that can be considered good. Good and evil are subjective, then, and not absolute.

    [Is it programmed into our animal brains?]

    No, our brains are animal by nature but also malleable by environment. This is why extremists in America can kill in the name of a Christian god while extremists in the Middle East can kill in the name of a Muslim god. They are products of their region’s fiction. We are able to learn and process like no other animals on earth. That’s how we evolved and how we created our fictions that bind us and how we came to dominate the planet. Of course, in so doing, we have become destroyers as well as conquerors. We have always tended to wipe out other large creatures, species, and tribes wherever we have gone. That doesn’t make us necessarily evil, either, but it makes many of our actions such.

    I fully understand the concept of your beliefs, and I admire them. I didn’t mean to suggest that this belief was a belief in God, just similar to it. Those who believe in the Christian faith or the Muslim faith or any other believe it completely, as if nothing else makes sense. And that faith is important, all-important to some. Again, mankind could not have come this far (for better or for worse) without it.

    After “sampling” so many faiths, and in my never-ending research, I have found that atheism answers all the questions that I have. In the end, it is hard for us to find meaning in the world because we have advanced brains, advanced processors, and so many questions. Because the hardest thing to swallow is that we are nothing special, that we are just animals whose brains evolved differently, we imagine a deeper truth. Because it is better than the mundane truth we convince ourselves it must be real. And there are as many different such fictions as there are people on the planet now or ever were!

    Again, there is nothing wrong with it and I encourage everyone to find their own. It doesn’t work for me and never has. I’m not sullen at all for this level of understanding, and I don’t disrespect anyone else who does not understand it, but I see the world, have dug deeply into it, and I don’t see anything else there.

    But I will read the book. I promise. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think the thing about Bryant’s death, other than how sad it was that his daughter was also a casualty, is that it forces a person to consider their own mortality. He was young, successful, rich, and the future was his oyster. Now it’s dust.

    We all live in our respective cocoons, and generally don’t think of the end game until we reach old age, whatever that is. Having something like MS has made me confront my mortality, but it remains at arm’s length. Something like this forces one, albeit temporarily, to recognize we never truly know when the end will come, which is scary as hell

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly, Steve, that’s the lesson we should all take from this. That life is precious and fleeting and that we don’t know when the end will come, no matter WHO we are. Money doesn’t forestall the end. Fame does not make us literally immortal. Do not wait until tomorrow to be the person you are to become. Start today, embrace life with a fervor, and love completely. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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