No insult or injury is worth carrying in Life, let alone to the grave.
While all of humanity understands this simple truth and knows how vain it is to cling on to such sentiments, everyone struggles with letting go of insults, barbs and forgettable memories. The struggle is because of the ego within us speaking up, louder than our hearts: the “How dare he?” scream drowns the “It’s OK!” whisper.
Joe Frazier (1944 ~ 2011), the boxing heavyweight, was one who took his sporting rivalry with the great Muhammad Ali too personally, and carried it literally to his grave. For years, Frazier had voiced his bitterness over the way Ali had insulted him, over how Ali had called him “ugly,” “a gorilla,” and an “Uncle Tom.” His anger was never in fuller view than when Ali, stricken with Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and Frazier said he would have liked to have “pushed him in.” To be sure, Ali had said this of Frazier: “Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.” ESPN commentator and writer Mike Sielski opines, “The two are forever linked, thanks to their three timeless bouts — Frazier won only the first, and the third was a near-death experience for both of them — the contrasting styles with which they fought, and the vitriol they hurled at each other for so long.” Yet their rivalry was both meaningless and childish for all their greatness __ because in reality they complimented each other. “Technically the loser of two of the three fights, [Frazier] seems not to understand that they ennobled him as much as they did Ali,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, “that the only way we know of Ali’s greatness is because of Frazier’s equivalent greatness, that in the end there was no real difference between the two of them as fighters, and when sports fans and historians think back, they will think of the fights as classics, with no identifiable winner or loser. These are men who, like it or not, have become prisoners of each other and those three nights.” They did come close more than a few times to make up and get over their sentiments. Frazier and his nemesis have alternated between public apologies and public insults. One exchange came in 2001, says ESPN, after Ali told The New York Times he was sorry for what he said about Frazier before their first fight. At first, Frazier accepted the apology, but then … “He didn’t apologize to me — he apologized to the paper,” Frazier said in an issue of TV Guide. “I’m still waiting [for him] to say it to me.” Ali’s response: “If you see Frazier, you tell him he’s still a gorilla.” Joe Frazier died in November 2011, beaten, a financially and emotionally broken man, by liver cancer. Ali graciously attended his funeral, realizing, perhaps, when he said, “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” that he had said too little, too late.
There’s a lot of Frazier and Ali in each of us. We are prisoners of our experiences and emotions. We cling on to positions we have taken, opinions we have formed and events we have been through. We hurt within but are too proud to accept that we are hurting. Review your Life. What are you hurting from, hurting with? Let go. Go say sorry to someone that you had hurt in the past, today. Write a note to someone saying you forgave them. If you don’t want to do either, just say it to yourself. And the next time you meet that person, look her or him in the eye, smile and give that person a hug. Life’s not a boxing ring. Remember: all the greatness of our professional successes will be pale and insignificant in the face of advancing age, failing health and the certain death that awaits us all.