Kobe Bryant’s passing, at 41, is a tragedy, as are the deaths of his daughter, Gianna, just 13, and the seven others on board that helicopter. Millions across the globe have been impacted by this, perhaps especially the generation that grew up along with Kobe, watching his evolution into one of the NBA’s all-time greats. His peers in the game of basketball have spoken out, too, some tearfully, and it’s apparent they honestly grieve this loss.
My own reactions were heightened by seeing the reactions of others, the human family in moments most unguarded. There is something profoundly beautiful and moving in our ability to openly weep for others, to care inwardly and outwardly for persons we don’t even know. Alone. Together. In public and private. In joy and sorrow we are bridges to one another. We are bridges.
How many times have people wondered to themselves or aloud, after reading, say, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, why can’t we heed its lessons throughout the year? The death of a beloved public figure, and the reactions to these losses, make me wonder something similar: Why can’t humans maintain that immediate emotion of oneness with both the object of loss and those sharing that emotion? Why can’t we see one another in the light of our mortality, always? In the light that burns out for all of us, sooner or later?
I imagine there are some who can. Who have. Who will in the future. But they’re rare breeds, and so scattered they form no critical mass, or even a small crowd. Too difficult for us? To feel this way, week after week, month after month, year after year . . . Probably.
Not too long ago, I read a stunningly profound book, by Martin Hagglund, which explicates one possible road toward getting there. I’ll save a full review for the future, but, suffice it to say, I highly recommend Hagglund’s book.
His key insight, perhaps, is that we should build societies based on our mortality, on the realization of our radically limited time on this earth, and do everything in our power to make sure everyone — as in, everyone — has the best possible chance to make the most of their time, their lives, as they dream they should be. Artists, poets, musicians, novelists, and more than a few mystics, have long fought for the idea of living life to the fullest, and showed us why (countless times) this was so critically important. But the artist as seer, as visionary, tends not to speak in terms of systems, at least not through their creative work. Hagglund, as a philosopher, writing a non-fiction, book-length essay, can travel roads (in this case) most creatives typically avoid.
Here’s a clip from the book, focusing on, in this case, C.S Lewis grieving over his wife, Helen Joy Davidman :
Perhaps the next great step for Homo Sapiens will be to find a way to at least start that journey, one that heeds emoted insights from thousands of great works of art, and visionary builders of systems too. Both/And.
Rest in Peace, Mamba.