Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Ali’

Sunday musings (thinking about Ali)…

Sunday musings (thinking about Ali)…

1) Genius. “What is genius but balance on the edge of impossible?” –Norman Mailer on Ali

2) Will. “The willingness to do what it takes to prepare to win is much more important than having the will to win.” –Unknown

Ali said numerous times that he hated ever minute of preparation for his fights. Every step on the road, every turn of the rope, every hit on the bag. And yet it was also said that in his prime no one out-worked him before a fight.

One of Ali’s earliest lessons.

3) Trials. “It isn’t the mountain that wears you down, it’s the pebble in your shoe.” –Muhammad Ali

Here we begin to see the deep understanding that this giant among mere mortals had for the trials and tribulations of everyone else. Who among us must actually give consideration to the mountain at all? Every day, though, each of us must plod on in the face of chronic constant discomfort. Just getting to the next challenge can sometimes seem to be insurmountable. Ali understood. Perhaps this, more than anything, explains why it was that every single person who was ever blessed to speak with him felt that Ali spoke for them, believed in them, cheered for them.

Knew them.

4) Courage. At age 24 Ali received his draft induction card. Having recently converted to Islam, Ali declined to serve and was stripped of his titles. Thus began 3 years of exile during which he struggled to support himself and his family. Three years of being hated by a majority of Americans. The likelihood that he would have actually been asked to carry a rifle and plod through the rice paddies along with the rest of the American servicemen was precisely zero. Think Elvis Presley. He must have known this, and yet he drew his line in the sand and refused.

I’m pretty sure it does’t really matter when we consider this whether or not you (or your parents, or your grandparents) agree or disagree with the particulars of his stance. Like almost every male in my age group I registered for the draft, and like so very many white suburban kids I would have spent almost all of my draftable years as a student, high and dry and thousands of miles away from the war. We didn’t discuss this at home; I have no idea what my Korean War vet Dad thought. I do remember thinking then, as I still regrettably think today, that what he did took a simply unimaginable amount of courage, a courage that I wasn’t ( and aren’t) sure I had (have).

Who among us hasn’t been faced with something that is hugely important, where right and wrong is a stark black or white, 0 or 1 binary question, where we just know with our heart and soul what we should do? There’s always a catch, though. A price to pay. Doing the right thing, even speaking out on behalf of the right thing, will have severe consequences for you or your loved ones or both. Your boss is a racist or a misogynist, perpetually abusing the weaker in your midst. Do you speak up, knowing it likely will cost you your job? A powerful interest group has descended upon your community and is singling out a group of which you are not a part, institutionalizing a prejudice that causes harm to innocents. Do you speak out, knowing that you will now be a target for a vengeful, wrathful power? The government has trained its regulatory aim squarely at your business, singling your world out for unfair attention just because it can. Do you speak out, knowing you will come under such withering scrutiny that you will likely be destroyed?

It’s not just being aware of the injustice, not just acknowledging the injustice, it’s doing so in the face of certain danger to you, or to you and your loved ones. Could you do it? Granted, Ali was 24 at the time of his stand, had come from little and had relatively little to worry about in terms of collateral damage, but still, there he was, walking away from the peak and willingly walking into the valley. Could you do that? Could you have done it at 24, even if you were just one more pebble in the shoe guy, with little to lose and little risk to those you loved?

That question has led to more than a few sleepless nights for me over the years, including last night after I heard that Muhammad Ali, the man who introduced me to the possibility that the answer could be ‘yes’, had died. I confess that, while hopeful, I am still not entirely sure what my answer would be were I to be confronted with such a question.

I’ll see you next week…


A Tiny Thoughtlet: Mark Twain on Memory

“I used to remember everything, but now I only remember the things that never happened.” –Mark Twain.

Twain never disappoints, does he? There’s all kinds of meat on that bone. Is he saying that he no longer remembers things that really happened, only those things he imagined at the time, or imagines now? Or is he rather saying that looking back on his life he only remembers those things that SHOULD have happened, but didn’t? Knowing Twain, my bet is that his answer would be:”yes.”

Memory is a funny thing. Partly accurate reportage, one’s memory is leavened by equal parts wishful thinking and regret. At least according to Twain. Think of your own narrative, the telling of your story. How much is fact, how much is embellishment (never let the facts interfere with a good story!), and how much is what you wish had happened? We were telling stories at dinner the other night, stories we all knew, ones we’d all taken part in creating and ones we’ve told countless times. Each time they are told they get a little better. Does this happen with you? Some of the stuff in our stories probably never really happened, but we remember it just the same.

But Twain also touches on regret in this quote, don’t you think? Things that could have been, or should have been, but for one reason or another, never were. Dangerous ground, that. Regret can turn the urn of happiness into a sieve. In his later years Twain was said to be increasingly bitter. One wonders if his regret fertilized the weeds in the garden of his memory. Perhaps the weeds began to choke the flowers, their overgrowth overshadowing the beauty beneath of those happier memories that may or may not have happened either.

Ticking time bomb, or soothing balm, memory serves us all in the end.