When All You Have Is Now

Junior Seau had a smile that could light up a room even from the television screen. He was a hard-hitting, ferocious defensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers for twelve years before moving on to Miami and then New England. Successful, well-liked by fans and other players. Dearly loved by his family. And yesterday he was found dead, presumably the victim of a suicide.

The media is at a loss. He wasn’t doing drugs or out of money. In fact he was involved in the community, had his own foundation, was giving back to his school.

There was that little incident a few years ago when he was arrested for domestic violence and shortly thereafter drove his car off a cliff, but he said he fell asleep, so no red flag there! 🙄

In an effort to make sense of this tragedy, the media finally grasped the idea that maybe, just maybe head trauma was causing depression which could lead to suicide. The salient fact was the number of football players and hockey players (also a violent sport, we’re told) who have committed suicide within the last few years.

Interesting that no corroborative numbers were presented from the sport of boxing.

But here’s the point. The members of the media were grasping for an explanation. From their perspective, Mr. Seau had it all: fame, good looks, money, health, love, respect, usefulness. He was only 43, so hardly over the hill. He had all kinds of time to enjoy the life he’d worked so hard to create. It just doesn’t add up. Unless there was a medical reason for such a sad outcome.

Of course I’m no doctor and I didn’t know Junior Seau, so I’m not pretending that I have inside information or that I understand what went through his mind. I have no knowledge whatsoever about what was behind his death.

I do know that the media wouldn’t be at such a loss for influencing factors if they believed in something more than the good life. Did it never cross their minds that maybe, just maybe Mr. Seau had accomplished all his goals and found that he had nothing? Or perhaps he’d been living for football for so long that when it was gone, all the other things he tried to fit in its place left him empty?

Our Western culture doesn’t want to consider that the thing we idolize might actually fail to satisfy. So few people actually “make it,” so we hold those up as our role models: Oprah, Magic, Bill Gates. And when someone breaks into that elite group, we think surely they have attained happiness — the thing the rest of us are still pursuing.

I wonder if that might not be some of the fascination with celebrities — how does it look to have it all, how does it look to be in position to be happy?

Because the rest of us have Monday mornings and car payments, mortgages, laundry, and not enough time to work out. We have doctor bills and angry bosses and loud neighbors. The rich and famous — they can simply buy peace and quiet. Or party til the drop if they’d rather. Surely that’s the life. Isn’t it?

That’s sort of like saying life is good if you can eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of your life. As much as I love chocolate, I still know that I would not be satisfied if my steady and exclusive diet was something so lacking in nutritional value.

But our culture doesn’t look at “the good life” in such terms. The sad thing is, ninety-nine percent of the world looks at those of us in the US as having the good life. We actually illustrate the fact that having cars and smart phones and laptops and iPods and flat screens and houses and twenty pairs of shoes and, and, and … doesn’t satisfy. If it did, we’d stop trying so hard to get the next gadget, the next goody. We’d be content and start living within our means. We’d be more generous and worry less about losing what we have.

But no. We want our now to be better than it is, because that’s all we’ve got. If we die young or die poor, then we haven’t made it.

Sadly, that philosophy misses the mark because this life is not all there is. It’s much easier to be content in want or in plenty, as Paul said he was, if you know you have eternal riches stored up for you in heaven. The good life here or the suffering life is really one and the same — training camp for the real dance.

Published in: on May 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Comments (8)  
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