Kobe Bryant: Why Grieve?

Seems the death of Kobe Bryant has stirred our sense of indignation and human suffering in a manner not entirely dissimilar to the death of Robin Williams. Then, as now, people were divided between the notoriety of these individuals and the hard reality that the anonymous suffering with mental illness and tragedies are not given a second thought, and don’t seem to occupy the news and social media feeds. I’ve written about Robin Williams (https://ellypiro.wordpress.com/2018/05/20/find-your-truth/) but then I was not as concerned by the conquest of those disparaged at the attention that this man had drawn and the disingenuousness of said sentiments when so many others of no notoriety suffer everyday.

I think the underling concerns are of keen insight and speak to moral underpinnings that occupy us all. The suggestion seems to be that all human suffering is of equal value, that the lives of the famous, rich, accomplished, successful are no more valuable than the lives of any human being, be they poor, destitute, average, of no special talent and so on. Discrimination is the culprit when great(er) consideration and attention is given to the loss and/or suffering of the rich/accomplished than to the poor/unaccomplished.

I doubt that notoriety all by itself is sufficient to determine the value of LIVED LIFE (i.e. one can be well know for a host of reasons; some bad, some good, and some ridiculous) but I wonder whether we are all being explicitly truthful when we make this universal claim regarding the unconditional value of all human life. When presented with considering whether the life of the “Bill Clintons,” “Martin Luther Kings,” or “Steve Jobs” of the world are more valuable than the lives of the “homeless” and/or “poor,” we would all certainly yell out: ABSOLUTELY NOT! How indignant to suggest such a thing!

Yet, this does not seem to be consistent with the manner in which we meaningfully organize our lives. After all, if it were true we certainly would not raise our children to aspire to certain kinds of lives, life styles, pursuits and activities. Indeed, I’d submit that none of us are innocent to the act of assessing and comparing lives. Clearly, we all value a life of health, happiness, fulfillment of potential, surrounded by family and friends who love us more than one where any one of these is absent. We may want to challenge some of these, but ultimately there is no way to avoid the judgment of value that is inadvertently implicated in the activity of living. Clearly, the life of a drug addict is not the one I should wish upon anyone. We may also want to challenge the way these considerations translate socio-politically. For instance, we may object to certain individuals (by good fortune, hard work, or both) of wealth and political influence seeking privileged treatment and/or access to public services (healthcare, expedite documents, etc.). The value of certain lives then, is quite distinct from saying “regardless of the kinds of lives one lives, the interests of all human beings should be given equal consideration….or something along these lines (the choice expression is utilitarian and I’m no utilitarian…apologies). But what has this to do with the death and the notoriety surrounding Kobe Bryant?

Those who are indignant accuse those expressing their sorrow as neglecting the death of the other passengers and their families’ loss. Some seek to broaden the issue to consider worldwide suffering which, they claim, “no one” (at least not those expressing their sorrow for this basketball player’s death) seems “too” concerned with. Honestly, I don’t know that that is true….the same people that have posted about this death seem to also post about the atrocities in Syria, the death toll in Gaza, the multiple raging civil wars in Africa, the brutal treatment of nonhuman animals, the poverty epidemic of India and more.

Again, and this is in part why I originally thought it best to remain quiet, what is it that everyone else, we (for I include myself) are actually doing to appease the suffering of anyone!!!!?? Is there not just a little hypocrisy in this? If I am a person affluence, power, etc., should I not seek to alleviate the suffering of the anonymous innocent adults and children around the world rather than just talk about it and castigate others whom I presume are not? Should I not restructure my life to use my influence (monetary and otherwise) to alleviate such suffering? Peter Singer (utilitarianism is not my moral framework, but still…) initiated a campaign called “Effective Altruism” (see his TedTalk here: https://www.ted.com/…/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effec…) that challenges us to live differently (eg. one student decided to study finance because it was what would bring him a surplus of earnings that he could give to the poor; others choose medicine or law, and seek more humble life styles, to afford themselves the time to work for free for the poor and destitute, etc.) and reconsider the meaning of “charity” and “duty”.

I would also like to share that my gut reaction to all the attention that Kobe’s death drew was: “What ever has this man done other than play basketball (BASKETBALL!!! IT’S JUST A SPORT AFTER ALL. I MEAN IT’S NOT LIKE HE FOUND THE CURE FOR CANCER!!?? RIGHT??!) and get paid damn well for it?! Why should I care when so many others who remain anonymous are suffering in this world? Why should I grieve for him beyond what one would grieve for the tragic loss of any life? I find myself indignant not so much because people are expressing their sorrow of this man’s tragic loss, but how it plays out in the manner in which this does translate socio-politically with regards to the structures that come to organize civil life. Still, it is hierarchical, still it is patriarchal, still it tips its hat to instrumentalism, still it is soulless, still it is ego-driven, still it is one of convenience.

Going back to the manner in which we value lived lives, there are the more aretic (from the Greek αρετή, dating back to early Greek Philosophy but more explicitly and systematically with Aristotle and the Stoics) variety that one might consider. For instance, Kobe is admirable for the sheer excellence he brought to the game, in the same way that a medical researcher can be admired for discovering the vaccine for a coronavirus virus. But this is admirable not just for the results brought to bear, but for all of those traits of character, or virtues, that such people often possess. Courage, discipline, focused attention, commitment, resilience, strength, temperance, generosity, honesty, respect. But alas it is not only the “socially accomplished” that are possessed of such virtues! For what of the courage and strength of an addict who has struggled her way into being clean? What of the strength and sense of justice of a mob member who resists killing an innocent? Admirable? But alas, what also of Kobe’s alleged rape? What of the life style and affiliations of the mob member? And what of the medical researcher’s vile treatment of her staff? We are all fallible, limited beings; no one is ever going to be wholly virtuous and it is perhaps as unlikely that anyone shall be wholly vicious.

December 18th, 1999

If just for a moment, I wish my son could see himself as I see him. Now 20 and a young man quite firmly independent and committed to making his own way through this world, often time seems lost on him. This myopic perspective, however, is an illusory trap, and though he knows this, he is also, like most, feeling quite cornered to own up to what is expected of him. Sigh!

Parenting is no walk in the park, but it has been the most gratifying and enriching experience life has yet to offer. Their childhood is reaped with cherished memories. But as adults there is a binding connection that comes to the fore with such visceral force when engaged in meaningful conversation. My son has often commented that I’m too trusting of people. I suppose in part because he has seen me financially and emotionally broken as a consequent. Still, I’m no stranger to this, and it is not naivety that is to be faulted for it. Rather, it is in struggling between the inevitable hurt I welcome into my life and living a life of suspicion and untrustngness. Alas, the pain of living without trust, being vulnerable and authentically raw to others, is too great a price to pay. After I spoke, he looked at me quite deliberately and said: I know, mom…I know. Impressed am I that my son can know this and struggle himself with hanging onto his truth…even when it costs him.


So this is for my son. I love you son! ❤ Happy birthday!


December 13th, 2019

December 13th, 2002, my daughter Kalianna came into my life with a BANG!!!! It hasn’t been quiet since!!!!

Tumultuous is she in all she does. Few know the calm of her residing love. Those that do, know the uniqueness of her synergy. Being her mother has not been a waltz, not always synchronistic, but not out of tune either or lacking musicality. But she came into this world ready for a fight.

Now 17, she wrestles with negotiating her sense of self worth amidst the demands of everyday life. And though strutting to the instrumentalist drummer still, it is in her awareness of this that she is brought to despair. Cries of anguish, frustration, and desperation which fill her heart and inevitably break my own eventually turn to cries of joy, release, and pride.

Of late she’s become aware of reciprocity. Breaking free from the ego-centrism that most characterizes youth, the narratives are not spun from the threads of Narcissus. Her own fragility has made her sensitive to the power she has to affect the lives of others in a manner that few adults possess. Impressed by the complexities of the human psyche, she’s drawn to the disenfranchised, the wounded; those with poetic entry into the human condition who with verse at their heels find flight in her voice.

My Kalianna is not yet “The Empowered Woman;” too young is she. Soon…

 
The Empowered Woman, by Sonny Carroll

 The Empowered Woman, she moves through the world
with a sense of confidence and grace.
Her once reckless spirit now tempered by wisdom.
Quietly, yet firmly, she speaks her truth without doubt or  hesitation
and the life she leads is of her own creation.

She now understands what it means to live and let live.
How much to ask for herself and how much to give.
She has a strong, yet generous heart
and the inner beauty she emanates truly sets her apart.
Like the mythical Phoenix,
she has risen from the ashes and soared to a new plane of existence,
unfettered by the things that once that posed such resistance.

Her senses now heightened, she sees everything so clearly.
She hears the wind rustling through the trees;
beckoning her to live the dreams she holds so dearly.
She feels the softness of her hands
and muses at the strength that they possess.
Her needs and desires she has learned to express.
She has tasted the bitter and savored the sweet fruits of life,
overcome adversity and pushed past heartache and strife.

And the one thing she never understood,
she now knows to be true,
it all begins and ends with you.

Please Lord make it so she never grows quiet…please Lord make it so her Lion’s voice becomes lyrical…

I love you more than you can possibly know, my daughter! ❤ Happy 17th, baby girl!

Stay Interested, not Interesting…

Always do I appreciate Jane Fonda, and can’t help but concur that only with age can you truly love and give of yourself, for it is then that we learn to continue to grow with glaring acceptance of how we’re evolving. Without all that, the confidence is not quite there, nor indeed, the ability to love another with unconditionality.

We are complex with simple(r) lives, when in youth we were simple with complicated lives. We cared about too much – what people thought of us, professional success, “love status,” possessions, wealth. Older none of that matters…much. A simpler life with few possessions, fewer still artificial people who don’t truly care about us; a life where career goals are replaced with meraki, and “love status” with the act of engaged loving. We seek to appear just as we are.

STAY INTERESTED…NOT INTERESTING!!!

Epic-this!


If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” …We can’t control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. Epictetus

As much as I gravitate to much of the commonsensical philosophy of life adopted by Stoic sages, there is much in Epictetus (and others) which one simply cannot live their life by. I’m not simply saying one shouldn’t – though I am also saying that – I’m saying it is impossible. The first instalment is infused with a kind of grassroots humour akin to the annoyance of something stuck between your teeth! The latter makes up part of Epictetus’ philosophy which has been memed to death, mostly, I think, because we live in times where the idea of free will seems most easily negotiated within the solitary confines of one’s own mind; i.e. happiness lies in recognizing what is beyond one’s control and letting go of any and all inclinations to possess it. Epictetus includes amongst matters outside of one’s control “the opinions of others.” Instead, let us focus on the deeds of others! I won’t even bother with the obvious limitations of a behaviouralist approach to reading the intentions of others off their actions. But what of intentions? Deeds only speak to our actions and not the intention with which we act – but clearly, it is just as important, if not more important, that someone acts with benevolent intentions rather than malice, that someone may have acted in ignorance or be deranged in which case their actions would not be blameworthy, and in the former case, not of the man to whom we assign blame.

But more importantly, and beyond the moral scope, the primordial state is that of being in the world with others. We are not first “who we are” and then seek to negotiate our existence over-against externalities, like others! The who of our being is the very out-birth of those fine and delicate arrangements which thread their way into our comportment ever so subtly until finally…finally…we must reckon with claims to our authenticity – here, here lies, that possibility, in those most intimate moments with others, for that is the space in which the magic of interpersonal(ised) comportment retrieves, or revives our wonder, our ecstatic, realisation of self. Alas, this can not come about without others!

Parrhesia

First instalment…

Parrhesia, an ancient Greek term, is frank-speech. Being frank is an act of forthrightness, as when one would say, “to be frank…” An utterance often quasi apologetically employed to signal unsavoury content; that is, something the listener is not prepared, or expecting to be clued in on. With this there is the risk of offence that may find oneself marginalized, (politically/socially) exiled and/or punished. The irregularity is not so much with the truth-value of the content, a point to which I shall return, but in “coming clean,” or explicitly exposing a truth which is contrary to acceptable form. Courage then is a fundamental virtue of the parrhesiastes. For she is not that chatterbox who feeds off the entrails of others, indiscriminately sharing wherever opportunity should veer her head. Such a gossip-whore is a sensationalist whose voice takes the form of entertainment at best, youtuber at worst!

The parrhesiastes does not chance upon potentially marginalizing acts, but diligently and with the virtues of courage, honesty and justice, push forward nonetheless. She must then ac-knowledge the irregularity and for the sake of some “higher” calling, and with veracity at her hip, share. Thereby vulnerable to public scrutiny – it is public both because it has been openly shared, and because it is subject to the regularizing force of public opinion – she’s made herself spokesperson for the truth. It is exhortative as it seeks to invite critical awareness where she is but the vehicle for its attainment. This finds the “offenders” apologoumenos before themselves and others, but always at the risk of the boomerang effect finding her the target of criticism.

ON SILENCE

Screenshot 2019-02-22 at 10.36.33

Being silenced by anyone on some level is experienced as intrusive, offensive, an affront. It’s not only that abstractly, theoretically, if you will, that authorial freedom of speech is a basic and fundamental form of autonomy, it is that I experience myself as overridden. This is why there is some truth to Epictetus when he claims that ‘we are disturbed not by men and their actions but rather by our own view of them’. When I care not for the subject for which I have been silenced, or the person who silences me, I do not experience myself as unfree. It is relational then. It is in a modality of care that dominion can, however slight, take possession of me. My freedom is usurped because his silence is not silent at all. The language of silence is only a language at all when it is communicable, communicative. Vulnerability is the penultimate form of trust where one transcends all inhibitions, and is both absolutely free and yet at once unfree as one is totally at the mercy of the other. Cowardice? Diseased? An affront? Perhaps. It is left to me to be both voice and interpreter. It is left to me to delicately abandon my own comportment and delve into the psychical world of the other in search of motifs. Shall I be both counselee and counsellor enriching understanding as I go? And yet what a turbulent parade of voices that fight for the protagonistic role. And here is the essence of my disturbance: I am abandoned, my vulnerability betrayed, to that state of unknowing. Freedom is stretched so extravagantly that I find myself ricocheted back against an elastic band. Struggling to gain my footing, the experience of unfreedom becomes ever more pronounced, ever more deeply embedded, so that like a beggar I ask for his voice to give me rest; restitution. To the test, then. It is often said that “the truth shall set you free” and yet driven by the pursuit of truth is my very undoing; it is indeed, the form of dominion over me, where the other is sought to emancipate me from the burden of the unknown. Recalibration wants not to be in the know, but to accept that freedom rests in letting go. For truth is not in the asking for the why, but only in the how. To the Stoics then: habituated exercises inspecting the formulation of questions that guide me in my daily inquisitions shall work to recalibrate and destabilize that insidious paradigm that unbeknownst to me took hold of my comportment and unravelled me. As to justice….  It is not “the high road” I seek; for none is to be found. It is my road; a road of endless tribulation. Suffering is not anyone’s delight, but alas a life short of suffering in the delicate, messy, attachments I am intimately bound, is no life at all!  Existential flight is not the cure; it is a curse. It is not therein where freedom shall be recalibrated. Who shall speak for “me”, then? To the self, then! A self-reflective exercise such as this finds internal voices in dialogue as the hidden is sought out by that audible, often out-spoken voice, who poses for my-self. An authenticating process shall rip the episodic foundation from beneath my feet, and in the process, for now, help to resist those ‘projections which have changed the world into the replica of my own unknown face’.

*Thankful to my colleague and girlfriend who insisted on tuning this once personalised engagement with the issue into a philosophical endeavour that transcends the personal.

Age-ism?

I’d be a millionaire umpteen times over if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked my age! It’s partly in exasperation, and partly to avenge myself of the implicit ageism (perhaps intermingled with a bit of sexism) that I’ve bothered to publicly address the issue.

People say, age is only a number. But that’s far from true. I am every bit my age. I’m 54. That’s 54 years of grappling with the complexities of living life. Transformative years from girlhood to womanhood. Years of seeking a proper footing, only to discover there are no footholds strong enough to endure any inquiry into truth, beauty, and justice. Years toiling with that inescapable abyss which has made me every bit the person I am. Years of compromise, and later years finding out that I need not subsequently compromise myself.

Mostly, now 54, my ego sits not full-faced across from you; but gently in my lap. There’s no voice that speaks to me that does not lead me away from my own obscurity; the cacophony of sounds are but rumbling noises of no measure. I hear you not; I permit you not. But I’m also not an island; we are lead out from the darkness of obscurity only through the eyes of the other. This most acutely realised when I am the cynosure in your eyes! I could not have fully been there to be seen thusly, were I not 54!

I’m every bit my age!!!! ❤ 51658206_2171413296451907_3319252907915739136_n

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