Thursday, February 20, 2020

No Man Is an Island

So the famous English poet John Donne has this poem about how one man's death is never really just one death. Instead, Donne believes, one death is a death for all mankind. The logic is that we on this earth are all humans, are all brothers of sorts, so when one person dies, we should lament the death, not take it for granted, as the loss represents a diminishing of humankind, something of which we are all a part.

The poem, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," goes like this:
No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.
Yeah, the poem is old, but it’s powerful, and even if you don’t know all the words, I think you catch the author’s drift.

I mention this poem because in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death, I can relate to it more than ever. Somehow I feel as though some part of me died that day, too. Perhaps all that died was my ability to live a little bit vicariously through Kobe; perhaps what died was my ability to see all the creative and interesting things Kobe had in store . . . I don’t know. All I can say is that in these times, I can relate to the John Donne poem very well.

I’ll close with another another set of words, but these ones from someone more contemporary—LeBron James.

At Kobe’s memorial at the Staples Center on January 31st, LeBron was asked to give a speech. LeBron and Kobe had been friends for many years and, LeBron, to be fair, was Kobe's successor to the title "the best player in the NBA."

I thought that what Lebron said at the memorial was exceptionally moving. My favorite part of the speech, though, is at the end, at the part that starts, "So in the words of Kobe Bryant . . ."

Here is what LeBron said:
Before I get started with this speech that I have, I want to acknowledge all the lives that were lost Sunday morning. Alyssa Altobelli. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Payton Chester. Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser. Ara Zobayan. Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant.
Now, I’ve got something written down. They asked me to stay on course or whatever the case may be, but Laker nation, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this shit. I’m going to go straight from the heart.
The first thing that came to mind, man, is all about family. As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. But when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family. And from Sunday morning all the way to this point — and I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is — and that’s absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week. Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that’s here, this is really, truly, truly a family. And I know Kobe, Gianna, Vanessa and everybody thank you guys from the bottom of their hearts as Kobe said.
Now I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe. But I look at this, I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the past three years, man.
Tonight is a celebration.
Before we get to play (yelling). Love ya’ll, man. Kobe’s a brother to me. From the time I was in high school, watching him from afar to getting in this league at 18, watching him up close. All the battles we had throughout my career. The one thing that we always shared was that determination to just always want to win and just want to be great. The fact that I’m here now means so much to me. I want to continue along with my teammates, to continue his legacy, not only for this year, but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.
So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.

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