Look where we are. Monday again. How is everyone doing today? So as you may have noticed from your Facebook newsfeeds, or really any form of social media, Muhammad Ali died in the last week. That’s a tough loss. One of the things I remember about Ali in the context of my own life was a story my father told me about him while we were cleaning. He told me about how Ali knocked a guy out in seconds.
I never really knew that much about the boxer, but he certainly impacted the world in ways that changed people’s lives. In fact, that’s what I’ve decided to talk about today. Not so much the work he did, but the way he did it. Lets look at Ali the boxer. Self-confident, boastful, charismatic. He was a lot like Kanye West is today. Seriously. If you haven’t heard the trash he talked, or the claims that he was “the greatest of all time” go check it out. It’s a bit unexpected for someone that was such a major part of pop culture from those days.
Yet outside the ring Ali was not the same kind of brash, head held high sort of man. He practiced Islam, and he did a lot of work for the good of society. These are not the kind of practices that we expect from someone who claimed to be the greatest ever. It’s weird, right? I think this is what made Ali the best. He didn’t let it go to his head, but at the same time he was confident that what he was doing was for the best. Maybe that’s an advantage of being religious, in the sense that the idea that, when there is a higher power overlooking everything, then a person realizes that just because they are the best at what they do does not make them more significant than another person. The idea that just being the best boxer in the world isn’t enough to hold someone above someone else in the greater scheme of the world.
I’m torn between how to apply this to my own life. A lot of people who do proclaim themselves as the best at something end up sounding like Kanye West. Like it’s gone to their head. But at the same time, how else can we actually show that we have succeeded with something and be proud of it if we can’t express that feeling? Ali’s division between boastful in speech and humble in actions shows a sort of way to achieve this. And I think that’s something we should all take away from his passing. That we—Americans, men, women, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Africans, and so on—all should be happy to promote ourselves and out lives, but at the end of the day we need to realize that we are all one people fighting for the same fight: to have a good life. And that, rather than think we need to knock out everyone else, take on only those who challenge you to step in the ring.