The philosopher lives in three worlds or (as I like to explain it) timescapes: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The philosopher does not alternate between the three worlds, or exclusively live in one while vacating the others. He lives (coexists) in each of these worlds at the same time. The three worlds shift from foreground to background at different moments and in varying degrees. Some instances the shift occurs without intention and solely by experience, and other times, the thinker brings into the foreground a particular timescape through reflection and thought.
Take “yesterday” for example – the unexpected finding of an old photo could draw the individual back into the past, whereas, the individual could also draw back into the past by waxing nostalgically, just as, one could partially remove the self from the present by fixating on the future.
In the timescape of yesterday, the philosopher deals primarily with the question, what happened? In the timescape of today, it’s the question, what is happening?, and, in the timescape of tomorrow, “What will happen?”
Philosophical discernment is procured by inhabiting the three timescapes of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and by bringing each of these into balance and harmony with the other. The failure to bring the timescapes into balance and harmony results in philosophical ignorance. In short, the man of yesterday must be a man of today and tomorrow, just as, the man of today, must also be the man of yesterday and tomorrow, and the man of tomorrow, be the man of yesterday and today.
Of course, living in three worlds, as opposed to living as most people, in one world, has its drawbacks and costs. For one thing, the philosopher must necessarily be at odds with his peers. Being “liked” isn’t a priority for the philosopher, in fact, it’s my contention that the philosopher will always live in the margins of modernity.
There are irreconcilable differences on both sides of the equation: the philosopher suffers from what the French call a déformation professionnelle, whereas the philosophically challenged individual dwells comfortably in one of the three timescapes, and regards the philosophers overarching and often critical views as threatening or combative, thereby giving off a sense of restlessness.
Some philosophers disagree and feel as though they must mesh with society and work within the normative codes and boundaries set by popular opinion and modernity. I find this in complete contradiction to the task set out for the philosopher.
Philosophers not only live in worlds that some want to forget (past), some are blind to (present), and some might fear (future), but also, live within these worlds and have an intellectual duty to report their observations to an often recalcitrant public. Recalcitrant or not, philosophers must communicate their observations.
The philosopher can undoubtedly live a solitary existence, but must find some medium to communicate their ideas to the public, be it teaching or writing. Change should be the motivating force behind the communication of ideas through any medium. Philosophers teach, not preach. To have philosophical discernment dawn upon an individual and that individual quarantines and cuts these ideas off from the public is an injustice of epic proportions.
Simply stated for this reason philosophers are often seen as judgmental, highly critical, and difficult to get along with, and to this I say, “The world is a better place because of this conflict and tension”. The idea of agreeing for the sake of appeasement and conformity is anathema for the philosopher.
I find it hard to imagine a philosopher that gets along with the greater majority of people. There are so many things wrong with the world, and so many things to criticize that conflicts and disagreements are often the lot of great thinkers. If the philosopher didn’t have a moral obligation to make these criticisms and observations public, then I could imagine friendships by appeasement, but this is not the case, and the philosopher has no choice but to go public with all the carping and criticisms and surrender friendship for intellectual honesty.
“More and more it seems to me”, Nietzsche says “that the philosopher, being of necessity a man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, has always found himself, and had to find himself, in contradiction to his today: his enemy was ever the ideal of today…So far all these extraordinary furtherers of man whom one calls philosophers, though they themselves have rarely felt like friends of wisdom but rather like disagreeable fools and dangerous question marks, have found their task, their hard, unwanted, inescapable task, but eventually also the greatness of their task, in being the bad conscience of their time…”
Following this line of thought, I think it’s safe to say the philosopher as a rule should be untethered from society. The tighter the binding to society, the more likely judgments and observations will be manipulated for the sake of appeasement and simply for the sake of “not making waves”. The philosopher must stand above the world and the waves, perched high above the fray, and positioned perfectly to see the big picture. Getting caught up in the rabble of the masses, does nothing but take up precious time and cloud the philosopher’s vision. It’s best the philosopher learns the delicate balance between spectator and participant. Some level of participation is essential to experience, but equally important is the spectator’s position, a nice comfortable place to assess the scene.
Astoria, NY 2012
“But against the palpably sophistical proofs of Leibniz that this is the best of all possible worlds, we may even oppose seriously and honestly the proof that it is the worst of all possible worlds.” Schopenhauer
What makes life worth living?
I’ll just say this right at the outset. This will not be the feel good lecture of the year. It’s not one you’re probably going to want to bring up at the dinner table, or on date night while waiting to catch a movie. It’s going to shake to the core, some of your most treasured values and ideals. Keep in mind, I’m not in the business of bringing cheer; this is the truth business and I come to you with the truth, or at least, what I find to be true. I wish I could have packaged it, wrapped it in fancy paper, and put a nice bow around it, but I come to you with nothing but words, experiences, and ideas.
Now, if these weren’t lived ideas, then I wouldn’t have come before you to give this lecture. You’ll see in the end that what I bring you is not an easy pill to swallow. My guess is that some of you, if not most, will have an allergic reaction to what I have to say, and you will reject my words, and see them as nothing more than the dark mind of a pessimistic philosopher. (And, you might be right!) However, I ask you respectfully to suspend your prejudices until the end, and only until you’ve given some thought to what I have to say. Let it ruminate in your mind. Give it some time.
One of the most important questions of philosophy in general, practical philosophy, philosophy as “lived ideas”, philosophy outside of academia, and, ultimately, philosophy in the world is, what makes life worth living? We see this question arise in ancient Greek philosophy, the age of enlightenment, existentialism, and most eloquently by the great American philosopher, William James in, “What Makes a Life Significant”. I’ll get back to James later on in the lecture.
We don’t ask ourselves this question anymore. Philosophers seem to have moved beyond this central question. My guess is they feel it was answered in the past and now it is old news. The new school philosophy has become a pursuit to know “things”, as in the mind, consciousness, and in this shift, they’ve left practical wisdom behind. The old school philosophy was more concerned with what we can’t know, and now it’s all about what we could know, setting aside the age old (unanswerable?) questions. Keep in mind, the same questions that keep the wheels of philosophy moving around.
The new school philosophers rather dally with questions about whether a computer will ever be able to replace a human. What I say is that the question, whether a computer will replace a human has no meaning, if we can’t answer the question, as my friend John McDermott likes to put it, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Why is it that we lose our children, our parents, our friends, and sometimes, lose ourselves, and yet, for the most part KEEP GOING? We all share the same fate and it is spelled – D E A T H. Why do we keep pushing that rock up the hill only to have it roll back down the hill? What gets us out of bed in the morning? What gets YOU out of bed in the morning?
What makes life so significant that a woman like Bonnie Hoagland could send her three sons and husband off to fight in Afghanistan not knowing if they’ll ever return? Clearly in this case it is hope, but is hope enough? Now, consider this: What makes life significant for the mother that LOSES three sons and a husband in battle? What gets her out of bed? What keeps her going as she walks past those bedrooms, with those all too perfectly made beds; the same beds she knows will never have to be made again? What makes HER life significant? Cognitive science and philosophy of mind can’t answer these questions. What makes life significant for the young Japanese man that lost his whole family and watched everything they owned get washed away like a stain on the counter? Why? What’s the deal? What is it about life that could make somebody push through these darkest of times?
There are many ways we could approach this question. The 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer would answer, “It’s the will-to-live”, a blind and relentless force, even in the face of the greatest struggles. All matter, Schopenhauer says, is nothing more than the objectification of the will-to-live, the struggle for existence. Quite simply, we’re not geared for shutting down the machine. It keeps going by design and stops when it runs out of fuel, or at the hand of the individual as in suicide. This, however, is not the majority. In layman’s terms, nature keeps us in the game through trickery and cunning. Even in the darkest nights of the soul, nature sheds a glimmer of light, saying “stick around, it’ll get better”. Many times it does not get better – it gets worse.
The 20th century philosopher and author, Albert Camus says, “Man MUST live and create. Live to the point of tears.” For Camus, this is not a question of “should” or “maybe”, it’s a MUST. We MUST live and we MUST create. It’s who we are, and part of the fabric of our being. To live is our lot even if this “living” seems more like a death sentence, than a week on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
It might be a stretch to go from Albert Camus to Richard Dawkins, the celebrated scientist, and dare I say, philosopher, yet, Dawkins was onto something when he said:
We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.
For Dawkins, it’s the invisible hand of natural selection that pushes us along this bumpy and uncertain road. There’s a scene in my all time favorite movie, “Manhattan”, by Woody Allen, and in this scene, Woody Allen’s character Isaac, is lying on his couch, and in an attempt to mend his broken heart, he just parted from his young but very wise girlfriend, Tracy. He asks himself the question, while speaking into a tape recorder, “why is life worth living?”
Why is life worth living? It’s a very good question. Um… Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh… Like what… okay… um… For me, uh… ooh… I would say… what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing… uh… um… and Willie Mays… and um… the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony… and um… Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues… um… Swedish movies, naturally… Sentimental Education by Flaubert… uh… Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra… um… those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne… uh… the crabs at Sam Wo’s… uh… Tracy’s face…
Isaac answers the question why is life worth living, by citing things that make HIS life worth living, not life-in-itself, and the list ultimately culminates in “Tracy’s face”. It would appear from this list that there is nothing intrinsically valuable to life. I agree. It’s my contention that life has no intrinsic value. Life is MEANINGLESS, in and by itself. The reality is that we are being pushed by the blind hand of natural selection, or will-to-live as Schopenhauer describes it, and it is absurd to keep going as Camus says, because there is no end game, no goal, no light at the end of the tunnel, no greener pastures, no right hand of the father, no vestal virgins. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Yet, we keep on truckin…
Life has no meaning until we bring meaning to life. WE are the creators of meaning and value. It’s the role of the individual to find what feds them ontologically, and to find what others are fed by ontologically. Life in-itself is a cold and brutal bitch right through to the core, as in “ain’t that a bitch”, and, it is a bitch. Time robs us of all things – memories, experiences, life, love, friendship, and most tragically our own person. There’s nothing scripted into life that says “Hey, you! Come have some fun.” Life is work and much of it is often all in vain, and bears the mark of something better not to have happened in the first place. Schopenhauer says (and I’m paraphrasing) “if you go to a cemetery and knock on the graves and ask the deceased if they’d like to do it all over again, 9 out of 10 times, they’d say “no”.
After all, consider this – we didn’t choose this life. We were thrown into existence, given a name, most of us a religion, coddled for a number of years, then booted out into the “real world”, and told to “deal with it”.
If we were able to see a trailer of the film called “life”, how many of us would have opted to still buy a ticket to the performance?
It’s my contention that the question, “what makes a life significant?” rests on the assumption that life has inherit meaning or value. The question proper is “Is life-in-itself significant?” of which, I’d answer with a resounding “No”. Life has no inherit meaning except from the biological perspective which is to pass on our genes. Nothing more. Nothing less. Biology doesn’t tell us that we must go to college, buy the house with the white picket fence, marry our one true love, buy the new car, or the summer retreat. The reality is that biology doesn’t say much of anything, it guides like I said, with an invisible hand. It works from behind the scenes. It’s the silent partner.
There’s a voice inside that says, “There must be something else. What about Tracy’s face or the crabs at Sam Wo’s, or better yet, a baby’s smile?” All those things are beautiful and stand to give meaning, but they are not part of life, they are part of the individual’s life. Some people never see Tracy’s smile, or eat the crabs at Sam Wo’s, or get to take in a baby’s smile. What about those people? Is life NOT worth living? Perhaps, but that could be said for any of us. The point is that the purpose of life, the meaning behind its significance comes at an incredible cost. The individual has sole responsibility to find their own significance, make a life, and as Camus said, “live to the point of tears”.
This is our story, right? The main theme that runs through Sartre’s existentialism, is that, we have no design, no set meaning, everything is for the making, and it’s only the individual that could add this meaning and create. There is a twist. The choices we make, which make up who we are, are also choices that define the collective group, society as a whole, in other words, mankind. That’s the burden of existence. It’s almost enough to keep us from acting, and rendering us perpetual spectators.
So, we have a dilemma… The American writer and journalist, Hunter Thompson says, “Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” That’s the question. Now that we got past the grim reality that life-in-itself has no intrinsic meaning and value, and it’s only the individual that is able to create meaning, we’re confronted with having to ask whether we’re up for the task of sucking the marrow of life, or do we just sit by the shore and watch? It is a gamble. The only certainty in life, is death, and everything else is up in the air. You just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Kierkegaard touches on this dilemma. We’ve made a commitment to life and life as a pursuit for the truth involves a “leap of faith”. There are many different interpretations, and this is only one of them. Are you going to live the triumphant life of a Nick Vujicic, otherwise known as the “man without limbs”, or peer at life through a mousehole, as in, the unnamed character in Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”?, or will we sound more like, Prufrock:
“For I have known them all already, known them all:— /Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons..”
There’s a moral question that arises out of our own existential dilemma. There’s a lesson in how to treat others, and to respect that which another person finds significant, whether that significance be another person, or a “thing”, which is never just a “thing” to the person that finds it significant.
William James says in “What Makes a Life Significant”:
In my previous talk, ‘On a Certain Blindness,’ I tried to make you feel how soaked and shot-through life is with values and meanings which we fail to realize because of our external and insensible point of view. The meanings are there for the others, but they are not there for us. There lies more than a mere interest of curious speculation in understanding this. It has the most tremendous practical importance…It is the basis of all our tolerance, social, religious, and political… The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own peculiar ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours.
What James is highlighting is the fact that our significance(s) are on a person to person basis. What makes my life significance, does just that…makes MY life significant, not yours, however if you’re somebody that can gain nutrition from what I find significant, then pull up a chair, and enjoy the meal. That which we find significant is person based, it’s not up to any one individual to judge or devalue that which anybody else finds significant.
It was brought to my attention not too long ago by a friend that my interest in Woody Allen seems more like an obsession, and from the outside, I can see how it would appear that way. However, as I see it, life-in-itself has no value or meaning, and our own personal existence within life-in-itself is often so difficult to feed ontologically and spiritually that when we do find something where we grow and develop, but more importantly, gives us meaning and makes us happy, then I say “run with it”, “take it as far as you can”, because Time doesn’t discriminate on what it steals, our interests and enjoyments are often on Time’s list of things to destroy.
In closing, life-in-itself may have no meaning outside the blind biological force pushing us along, but our own personal existence bears the potential to create boundless significance. We have the potential to turn a bankrupt existence into a rich personal life. The follow up question to this and I will address it in the 2nd and 3rd lectures, is whether or not, this technological shift that is speeding up messaging and disconnecting us from the real flesh and bones of society is playing any role in shaping what we find significant.
Aside from the scenes of utter devastation, we’ve seen pouring out of the Japanese media, there’s another a threat being exposed, one of epic and universal proportions. This will come at a cost, we’ll all have to pay when the great score comes to settle.
I can only speak about what I’ve gathered as the American reaction to the 2011 Japan earthquake, and what I’ve seen has been nothing short of sad and might I add reckless.
You say, “Hold on, Sicoli. What do you mean? We’ve had constant coverage on the tube of images and footage rolling out of Japan.” You’re right. It’s been a media blitz. We have access to footage coming in from all angles, showing the natural evils being cast upon the Japanese people. The American people are quite aware of what’s going on in Japan.
Yes. I commend the American public for being aware of what’s going on in Japan. Bravo. Really… Keep in mind, Americans were also aware of people being hauled away to death camps, slaughtered in Rwanda, and displaced and killed in Darfur. 7,000,000+ killed by Nazis, 800,000 murdered in Rwanda, 500,000 killed in Darfur. I’d say, and my judgement might be skewed but it’s seems like we were a little too far behind the ball of the events.
The difference between “knowing” something and “doing” something is like the difference between “lighting” and “lightning“. What could we possibly have done to prevent the massive earthquake in Japan? The answer – nothing. Nature is beyond our control. Or, is it? It’s my contention that the minute the US government saw the potential devastation of nuclear power, was the same minute that Man took Power and Responsiblity over Nature. Why? Because we could destroy it through the introduction of this technology. Think about it. There’s much responsilbity that comes with the title “boss”.
Why is it the Americans (primarily) see nature as something greater than the individual and beyond our control, infinite and impermeable? Why are we so cavalier with the way we treat nature, and if we do see an end to nature, why is it by some Divine intervention?
The same day of the Japan earthquake, Gallop released a poll saying Americans were less concerned with global warming. (http://bit.ly/fOeW4l) (I know, it’s a liberal hoax. 99% of the world’s greatest scientists and scholars all over the world have the time and energy to pull a fast one over the people. It’s a Rube. )The grim reality is that many believe there to be a direct link between the frequency of the earthquakes and global warming. In short, the ice melting and water level rising is believed to be a catalyzing force behind earthquakes.
The point is that the American public will fail to see the fragility of nature and take responsiblity for their actions. We’re a very unruly houseguest. We come over to your house, destroy the place and then when the structure of the house is about to collapse, its poor condition will be denied only because the interior walls are still in tact. Deep down they know the house will fall one day, but it’s not their fault, the precise time is a matter of ”Divine Intervention”. God’s will.
I see the “God’s will”, “Divine Intervention”, “doomsday”, and 2012 prophecies to be nothing more than cop-outs to shrug the responsiblity off our own shoulders. The philosophers (yes, the philosophers) are primarily to blame, because in the beginning of the history of ideas, they deemed nature as divine, and if you read early literature you will often see nature, written out as “Nature”. The capitalization of nature was used to indicate that man is subservient to nature, and that nature is something eternal and impervious to our wrath. After all, why would God give a mere mortal power over his creation? If the whole does come undone it’ll be at the hands of God, not man.
I see our failure to step up to bat and really come to be wise stewards of the environment totally dependent on the divinizing of nature. To put it bluntly, it’s because we’re way too stooped in God and religion, and God and religion, are way too connected to policy making in the country. American’s are skeptical of scientists (until they are on a hospital gurney), and see them as robbing their religion. When it comes to things like global warming, the US is light years behind other developed countries, all because we believe too much in God and too little in science.
Following the 9/11 attacks, a prominent Christian evangelist said, it was God’s way of punishing NYC because of the gay pride movement. Following the events of Katrina, a prominent Christian evangelist said, it was God’s wrath cast upon New Orleans because of the sinners and the Mardi Gras celebration. The same thing was said following the disaster in Haiti. Get the point.
How can we truly comprehend the fragility of nature, and the fact that it is by its very nature – finite, if it’s being approached as something left in God’s hands? The answer is by the time it comes to the realization that we are in fact screwed, it’ll already be too late. We’re waiting for that grand cataclysmic event. That penultimate event. We want Shock and Awe. When it comes to the steady, progressive, incremental changes like bird migration being altered by global warming, polar bear extinction, and rising sea levels, just to name a few, Americans for the most part are not all that concerned, in fact the alarmists are often mocked as freaks. FOX news, the most watched news broadcast in the US, continually mocks global warming as a liberal hoax, and during every snowy winter can’t resist mocking Al Gore, as in “Hey Al. So much for global warming. Look at all the snow.” Of course, these blockheads don’t realize the consequences of climate change manifests in many different forms, specifically eradic weather conditions and more extreme weather. In short, we want to see major change and then we’ll be “aware” that it is happening, but until then the slow steady changes go ignored.
Hannah Arendt says when discussing “radical evil” and how to look for it, that people shouldn’t wait till the major event, the “big one”, they should pay closer attention to the silent foes, the small erosion of freedom. This is also true of the kind of eyes we should use to view nature. Instead of viewing nature as something divine and free from mankind’s wrath, we should begin to see that nature is as fragile as the vase on your coffee table. Bump into it enough and it will break.
The US might have the greatest scientists but the American people on a whole have absolutely no clue about the nature of existence. I read a poll last year on Darwin’s birthday that 6 in 10 Americans couldn’t associate Darwin with the theory of natural selection. Frightening. I was sickened by reading this poll, but I wasn’t all that surprised.
We don’t know how we got here, why we are here, or how it’s all going to end, because it will one day – come to an end. Everything comes to an end. Nothing lasts forever.
My friend, John J. McDermott, the great American philosopher said to me in conversation, “Sicoli. Finitude is a verb” *grabbing my arm* “not a noun”. He meant this in a more philosophical application, but I immediately linked it with our (Americans) refusal to see nature as something finite, and if we are going to accept finitude it’ll settle upon one single divine event, and then, we’ll accept the end. We refuse to see “finitude” as a working towards, a process, a movement, and a series of actions. Finitude has taken on static form in the American psyche. We’ve reaped all the profits from nature, and yet, refuse to accept the blame when it all starts to fall apart. We’re pathologically blind to accept any type of environmental responsibility.
Now, I don’t necessarily know if the earthquake in Japan was ultimately caused by global warming, but what I will say is that there has been an awful lot of God talk and 2012 talk being discussed at the dinner tables. Even the notion of 2012 Doomsday discretely proves my point. Notice it’s doomsDAY and not doomsDAYS. The latter would imply a working towards and movement, an action.
We can’t be behind the ball on this one because once we go over the curve it’s exponentially harder to come back the other way. I urge everyone to think more scientifically and less other-worldly. Fini.
Random notes on ontological disconnectedness:
I think man’s drive to this social network has something to do with fear of self-actualization. There is a clincal version of this, it’s called – the Jonah Complex. Perhaps it’s a cop-out for actually jumping in the water and swimming. It’s much easier and safer to talk about swimming, than it is to actually jump in the icy water and swim.
I can’t just leave it to the fact that it’s easier to be a spectator. There’s something else going on here, and I think it’s to compensate for an existential and ontological void. (Existential meaning, questions of our existence, and ontological mean, questions of being, reality, etc..)
We don’t know who we are because we never bother to look at who we are, and so to compensate for our selbst unwissenheit (self ignorance), we’ve created these ersatz identities within a social network. The whole social network is essentially a collection of projected identities.
We’ve lost all connection to the self and our own ontological nutrition b/c we’ve found security and safety in peering into the lives of others.
Nietzsche says “We are unknown to ourselves – and with good reason. We have never sought ourselves – how could it happen that we should ever find ourselves.”
There is nothing new about our fascination with the other and avoidance of self. It’s an old song, and we’ve all heard it before. However, the recent wave of the 24 hour media blitz, the internet, the social network, has made the job of finding ourselves not only more difficult but also, undesirable, because what we find often doesn’t match the shadows on the wall. We’re tempted to live by the other, but nothing comes to fruition.
It boils down to cowardice. I am so scared to find out who I really am because I might not like what I find, so I’ll dissolve the self in a world of fantasy, a la, reality tv, social networking, and the internet.
The overarching consequence of the social network is that its become sold and packaged as connecting us, but what it’s actually doing is tearing apart our personal relations but also our relation to our own person,fracturing our identity, and in the worst cases, it results in autophobia, or fear of self.
It’s a virtual world, we’ve become all too comfortable in seeing it as a replacement for rugged individualism.
The Kierkegaardian Leap is too ambitious for today’s standards. It’s more like the Kierkegaardian Hop.
This is nothing new for mankind. Now it has a new medium. Consider this – it’s much too difficult to be a “friend”, so we broadened the definition of “friend” for the sake of eliminating risk and making it easier – it’s much too difficult to “love”, so we broadened the definition of “love” for the sake of eliminating risk and making it easier to think we “love”. It’s a double edged sword – on one side it’s easier and on the other it plays into our fears and insecurities. The social network plays into these same weaknesses.
As I write the random notes, (while on Facebook) I look to the ads on my right – one is for “speed dating”, and the other is for “get your degree in 6 months” and the other is for a make money fast scheme. Point being, everything is moving around us at light speed, because we’re not connected and paying any attention anymore. We’ve eliminated the journey from attaining anything from love to a degree to making money. It’s a straight line between two points. No more curves. I’ve always been a fan of curves. Straight lines do nothing for me. As my dear friend and philosopher, Arthur Lothstein likes to say “the nectar is in the journey”.
This is a work in progress…
I was 9 years old when Mike Tyson won the title and I’ve been a fan for the last 23 years. As a kid I was drawn in by the whole “larger than life” persona he created in and out of the ring. Every victory was a VICTORY in the truest sense of the term. No luck here. He was invincible. Raw power. Unstoppable.
At peak moments, it’s my contention he was the greatest fighter in boxing history. “Peak moments”. Problem was that the “character” Mike Tyson began to overshadow the “boxer” Mike Tyson. The same thing happened with Darryl Strawberry later on in his career. We even see it in the case of Hunter Thompson. His antics overshadowed his talent as a writer.
Anyway. Mike screwed up big time. We know the story. Drugs. Spousal Abuse. Jail. It’s an old story… These dark moments stained a picture perfect athlete. Say what you want about Tyson, but this man was as much an athlete as Jordan, Gretzky, Ali, Bird… All the makings to have a place in history reserved as the “best”. By title, Tyson was the best, but history would never put him on the same page, let alone same sentence as the Boxing Buddha, Ali. His long term legacy was marginalized by his short term burst to fame.
This new reality series, “Taking on Tyson” shows a very humble and very likable, 44 year old Mike Tyson. He waxes philosophically where he went wrong and admits to being an animal. He explains how his first coach drilled into his head that he was superior to everyone else, and when he acted out, and people turned away from him, it was only because they didn’t understand him, because he was superior to them. In his mind, there was nothing wrong with his actions.
Now in retrospect, Mike Tyson knows where he went wrong, and doesn’t want anything to do with boxing. He also knows that he could have never been the boxer he was in the ring if he wasn’t the animal outside the ring. The question is, was destroying his long term legacy worth gaining short term notoriety? We can’t answer that question. It’s up to Iron Mike to get to the bottom of this question.
So, Mike turned to racing pigeons. I lived in Jersey City up the street from Tyson’s “Ringside Lounge”. I knew pigeon racing was popular in Dirty Jersey City, but I had no idea Tyson was one of the biggest fans. How did Mike Tyson come to have this passion for pigeons? When he was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, a street thug ripped the head off his favorite pet pigeon, and, this was in Mike’s eyes the reason for his first fight. Always gritty in the BK.
Now years later, Mike and his motley crew of pigeon racers are back at it on the rooftops racing pigeons. One of his friends puts everything in perspective. He says, “we’re in a different world up here. We’re off the street up on the rooftop and away from the hell of the street. We’re above it all up here.”
Mike does seem to find consolation in racing these pigeons, and his childlike and playful interest in becoming the best pigeon racer is such a welcome relief from all the drama that usually surrounds Tyson. I think this is a good thing. I think this might be a step in the right direction for Tyson to get himself back on the same page as Ali.