Cast Your Net Widely


Mega Genius® Intelligence Briefing [40]:

 

How predictable do you want your life to be?

If your life is too unpredictable, it will not go the way that you want.  You will not be happy.  On the other hand, if your life is too predictable, it will become boring.  You will not be happy then, either.  Therefore, you will be happiest when your life is under your control and predictable, yet unforeseen things occasionally occur … as happened to me in May of 1984, when one of life’s little surprises and I converged at a crossroads.

Century City is an important business center, adjacent to Beverly Hills and Bel Air, California.  My friend Ronald Reagan maintained his office there for 10 years.  Century City is where you will find 20th Century Fox Film Corporation’s headquarters, one of the six major American film studios.  It also encompasses the offices of many other executives, and law firms, with ties to the film, television, and music industries, along with the Century Plaza Hotel, affectionately known in the 1980s as the “West Coast White House.”  In the 1970s and 1980s, my office was perched on the top floor of the tallest skyscraper in Century City.  I like to see whomever and whatever is approaching.  At that elevation, even in sunny southern California, flurries of miniature snowflakes occasionally gusted by my office windows.

One day, across Avenue of the Stars (not to be confused with Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood), after I had spent a couple of hours shopping at the Century City Mall, I collapsed onto an outdoor bench, and slouched.  (Men will understand.)  Moments later, a man unexpectedly approached from behind and boldly slumped down next to me on the bench, shoulder to shoulder … a bit too close.  I had arrived at the crossroads.

At six feet and five inches in height (1.96 meters), and 235 pounds (106.6 kilograms), I seldom encounter others my size.  Peripherally though, I sensed that this intruder, who had assertively invaded my immediate space, matched me nearly inch for inch and pound for pound.  So, I glanced at him to size him up, just “to see if I could take him,” if need be.  (Men will understand.)  I immediately concluded that I could not.

Nevertheless, I confronted the stranger.  I leaned right into his face and, without pulling a punch, told him straight out … “You sure look like somebody famous.”  Then I leaned back.

Then, he leaned right back into my face.  “Now, ya gonna say ah talk like him, too,” counterpunched Muhammad Ali.  And then we both laughed.  Just that quickly, strangers had met and were becoming friends.

Surprises like that keep life slightly unpredictable, and fun.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., his amateur boxing career had been impressive.  He had won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Golden Gloves titles, and two Amateur Athletic Union crowns.  At the 1960 Summer Olympics, in Rome, the 18-year-old had won the Light Heavyweight gold medal.

Like most people in the American Midwest at that time, he had been brought up in the Christian religion, as an evangelical Protestant Baptist, and taught that no commandment of the Bible is greater than to love your neighbor as yourself.  But, many people do not practice what they preach.  After winning an Olympic gold medal, and being honored in a parade in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, he was refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant and attacked by a white gang.  The disillusioned champion then threw his Olympic gold medal into the depths of the Ohio River and began his gradual conversion to the religion of Islam.

Some people contend that boxing is a brutal sport, and it can be, when two men are beating each other.  When Cassius Clay swiftly shuffled his feet and threw his lightning-quick jabs, however, a style that he described as “float like a butterfly; sting like a bee,” it was only half as brutal.  Just one brute landed almost all the blows.  As he explained it, “Their hands can’t hit what their eyes can’t see.”

Because he had remained undefeated as a professional boxer from 1960 to 1964, he became the top contender for Sonny Liston’s World Heavyweight title.  Liston was the overwhelming favorite to win, at 7 to 1 odds.  Nevertheless, on February 25, 1964, in Miami, Florida, Cassius Clay stunned the boxing world by winning the World Heavyweight boxing title, at the age of 22.

Although he soon announced that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali, to many he was “The Louisville Lip,” not because he loudly proclaimed himself the greatest, but because he wouldn’t shut up about it.  “A rooster crows only when it sees the light.  Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow,” Muhammad told the news media, “I have seen the light and I’m crowing.”  And, awaken the world, he did!  “I am the greatest!” Muhammad declared. “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize,” he warned.  When a reporter suggested a touch of modesty, the champion retorted, “When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble.”

Then Muhammad pointed out a fact that many had overlooked, “It’s not bragging, if you can back it up.”  He could and he did, again and again, for 15 more years, from 1964 to 1979.  He is the only person to have won the World Heavyweight Championship three times.

Muhammad Ali ruled what has been called the golden age of heavyweight boxing; was named “Fighter of the Year” by Ring Magazine more times than any other fighter; and, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and holds wins over seven other Hall of Fame inductees.  He was designated the greatest heavyweight of all eras by Ring Magazine.  He was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated magazine and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).  In 1999, Muhammad received the BBC “Sports Personality of the Century Award.”  The contest wasn’t even close.  He received more votes than all the other contenders combined.

In 2002, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn declared Muhammad’s birthday to be ‘Muhammad Ali Day.’”  Quipped Muhammad, “All I get is the day?”  He had a point.  Then, on second thought, the Honorable James K. Hahn gave him the whole millennium ― which he proclaimed as “the Ali millennium.”

A few days later, Muhammad was awarded a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, a tribute that is respected as much as an Academy Award.  In Muhammad’s case, however, instead of imbedding his five-pointed monument in the sidewalk, in accordance with tradition, the Walk of Fame installed it in the wall of the Kodak Theater, where the Academy Awards are held.  That was to prevent people from walking on Muhammad Ali’s star.

In 2005, at the White House, President George W. Bush awarded Muhammad the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States of America.

In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Princeton University.

Muhammad Ali has the most recognizable face of any person who has ever lived.  According to a worldwide study of all people living or deceased, including fictional characters, the only face that is more easily recognized by everyone ― from Fifth-Avenue debutantes to Pygmies along the Zambezi ― is Mickey Mouse.

In August of 1984, a few months after Muhammad and I first met, on the bench, we attended the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, in Los Angeles.  United States President Ronald Reagan opened the ceremonies and Rafer Johnson, winner of the decathlon at the 1960 Summer Olympics, lit the Olympic torch.  I was fortunate to have the best seat in the Memorial Sports Arena, between Muhammad Ali on my right and multiple Academy Award-winning actor and avid sports fan Jack Nicholson on my left, at the Olympic Heavyweight boxing finals.  Spectator sports do not get any better than that.

Twelve years later, in 1996, at the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States President Bill Clinton opened the ceremonies, and the Olympic torch was lit by Muhammad Ali.

There is a reason that I am telling you about him and our friendship, beyond just adding zest to a Mega Genius® Intelligence Briefing.  I want you to know the Muhammad Ali that I know; it will be worth your time.

Whenever we got together, I learned something interesting.  For example, at our first meeting, I verified what I had long suspected.  I found that in private he was a soft spoken, unassuming gentleman.  “I am the greatest,” he told me earnestly.  “But,” he laughed, “I kept saying that even before I knew I was.  I know I’m a nice guy, but I don’t want the world to know.  I’ve found that humble people don’t get very far.”

I also learned that day that he was a practical joker, which was why he had intentionally crowded me on the bench.

Three months later, at the Olympic boxing finals, he taught me how to predict which fighter would win a match, long before the audience had a clue.

Yet, it was at another meeting, in June of 1984, that Muhammad revealed a facet of himself that enabled me to predict his future. As Laila, his six-year-old daughter, danced improvisationally before us, seeking more of her father’s attention, as young girls often do, Muhammad repeatedly stressed to me, “I just can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I beat Liston.  I just can’t believe 20 years have gone by.  Twenty years!  I just can’t believe it!”

Muhammad didn’t know that he was colliding with a universal law.  Such laws can be changed, but only through infinite understanding.  Here is the law that Muhammad did not understand:

 

Anything that you resist, you become.

 

Think of a vector as something with magnitude and direction.  The physical universe is a cosmos of reverse vectors.  In other words, the more that you resist something, by either pushing it away or withdrawing from it, the more that you will attract it.  If you are determined to keep something away, or to keep away from it, you will surely end up with it.

Here is an example of how it works.  Once, two children, a boy of four and a girl of seven, had been purposefully avoiding me for more than a day.  They did not know me and were shy, but finally I decided that I wanted to play with them.  So, as the four-year-old boy walked by the chair in which I sat, following his sister and purposefully ignoring me, I suddenly growled horrifyingly at him. He jumped back as if he had just dodged ball lightning and stared at me.  I just stared back.

After about 10 seconds, he very cautiously took one small step toward me.  I growled terrifyingly, again.  Suddenly, both children shrieked with laughter and literally jumped right into my lap.  That was all it took.  I had “reverse vectored” them.  I had strongly communicated, “Keep your distance from me!”  Therefore, the space collapsed and I immediately had them.

Understand that the law is not that you will always get what you do not want.  If you do not want something, you do not have to have it.  However, if you obsessively resist having something, it will move right in on you.

In explaining this to a friend a few years ago, I also pointed out the second part of the law, which is that anything that you consider that you must have will move away from you.  He reacted badly to that, which indicated to me that I had not explained it well enough, so I will do a better job of it now.

You have lived long enough to have noticed that things that you especially want seem particularly difficult to obtain, and things that you especially want to avoid seem determined to impinge on you.  That is why time seems to pass so slowly when you are scrubbing stains from tile grout, which you don’t like doing and wish would end, yet seems to pass so quickly when you are on vacation, which you desire and wish would last longer.

Here is the bottom line.  You can get the things that you want and you can avoid the things that you do not want.  Just do not fixate on getting what you want or on avoiding what you do not want.  It is only when you angrily or fearfully try to avoid something, or obsess about what you must have, that you will get into real trouble.

A key is in being able to fully have what you fear, for then you will not have to resist it, be it poverty, or disease, or anything else that you might consider tragic.  For example, I can have “terrible” things threaten me, because I know that I can handle them effectively and make life go right.  There is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind about that.  Therefore, what many people might consider terrible things are insignificant to me, and are not things that I resist.  Consequently, nothing dreadful ever happens to me, because I can fully have it.

Life is a bowl of cherries, if you understand and use the law.

Muhammad’s difficulty accepting the passage of time was revealing.  It meant that instead of welcoming change, he was resisting it.  The superb athlete was obsessively resisting change to his athleticism.  He was afraid of losing it.  And, since anything that you resist, you become, I knew that the future that Muhammad was creating for himself would not be as kind to him as I would have liked.

Now, a quarter of a century has passed, since 1984.  Much has changed, including Muhammad’s athleticism.  The results of a thorough physical examination of Muhammad at famed Mayo Clinic, in 1980, had included no sign of any organic brain disease.  Yet, in 1984, at age 42, just after his exclamation at our second meeting, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  He was about to become the less able athlete that he had passionately resisted becoming.  And, he did.  Soon, the lightning-fast jabs, miraculous coordination, and dancer’s grace of the man whom many contend was the greatest athlete of the twentieth century was gone.

Muhammad’s little daughter, Laila, is still dancing, but she has changed much, too.  She has grown into a beautiful woman.  In 2007, she was widely praised by the judges on the American version of the television show Dancing with the Stars, in which she placed third in the competition.

Racial discrimination has changed much.  Unfortunately though, it still exists.  And, Muhammad’s Olympic gold medal, which the champion threw in frustration into the deepest part of the 981 mile long (1,579 km) Ohio River, at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1960, still lies on the tributary’s bottom.

I want you to know something else about Muhammad Ali.  I don’t think that he would say that he has never felt racial prejudice toward another.  But, after having been refused service at the “whites-only” restaurant and attacked by the white gang, and after having thrown away his Olympic gold medal, and then after having converted to Islam, he began to see more truth about racial discrimination.  People can change.  As Muhammad said later, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

I learned quickly at our first meeting that the light color of my Caucasian skin was of no importance to him.  He was a man of African ancestry who had no room in his heart for racial prejudice.  I have never felt more acceptable to anyone of different ethnic heritage than I have felt consistently with Muhammad Ali.

“Hating people because of their color is wrong,” he contends, “And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating.  It’s just plain wrong.”  But, Muhammad understands much more than that.  I can tell you from beyond the top of the IQ scale that one of the deepest secrets of life is this:  The truest test of greatness is the ability to love your neighbor, regardless of anything that he or she may say or do.  Muhammad understands that, too.

“Love is a net that catches hearts, like fish,” Muhammad asserts.  “I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me.  It would be a better world.”

That is the way that Muhammad loves others, casting his net widely.  And, now you know the secret of what has made Muhammad Ali truly great.

 

Mega Genius®

01 December 2008

 

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