Events possess a certain power that effect humans in many ways. The power strikes us directly or indirectly and begins to penetrate our hearts and everyday lives. The facial expressions we make, our energy during the day, what we read before we go to bed, and the conversations at the dinner table. An event seems to occur at a particular place and at a particular point in time, yet it is, in a sense, everlasting. When does it end? It encounters our hearts and begins seeping into our lives. Like an earthquake. The ground continues to shake, tremors travel causing rifts in the ground. Events are messy and not contained in neat boxes because they are involved in complex, intricate webs of human life, human relationships. They reverberate throughout history, touching factors of reality previously unreachable.
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
The death of beloved basketball superstar Kobe Bryant created this impact around the world, but especially to dear friends and the city of Los Angeles. Much devastation and pain filled people ranging from young aspiring hoopers to old grandmas. This unexpected event shocked us. It showed that the power and magnitude of events slap us in the face from our daze. They reveal to us what matters, and the large distance between those things and how we are currently living. They call into question our worldview and lifestyle. The style in which we deal with life. They show us that no matter how much we construct our lives to spend our days inside of the illusion that we are in control… we are not. We stand wide eyed and bewildered. Like waking up in the middle of the night from a terror… waking up to reality with a new perspective. Not without pain or regret, but filled with wonder and rawness. Realizing the desires of our hearts.
(Here is the link to Shaquille O’Neal’s reaction to the death of Kobe Bryant. His genuine, heart-wrenching reaction to this event is a testament to the spirit of human beings.)
The cry of our spirit lives like a man trapped in a burning building. Crying out, “I’m here! I’m in here!” The desires of our hearts cry out, always with a sense of urgency. My needs. Your needs. Our needs for ultimate fulfillment, to be truly satisfied in a meaningful relationship with life.
Needs. What do I need?
We know about our immediate needs that slap us in the face every morning we wake up and every second of boredom. My stomach grumbles and I suddenly become aware of my need for food. I wake up with a sore throat and runny nose and I suddenly become aware of my need for health. I come across a clothes catalogue and I suddenly become aware of my need for money. However, I’m less in tune with my deeper needs. The ones that are not only biological, instinctual, or cultural. But the ultimate needs that constitute my humanity. These are discovered here on earth but point us to a higher place. Desires of the human heart to be truly satisfied. If we can go so far as to say that these ultimate needs are of a higher value than our immediate needs, then how do we hear these needs? They lie trapped inside of each of us, seeking rescue. Who is there to hear their cries?
Events jolt us. Events help us hear the cries of our hearts. We hear the man crying out for help, trapped in the burning room. These unpredictabilities of life, these tragedies, release a power over the earth. They pierce our hearts, allowing the possibility of true transformation, of true rescue and freedom.
“Something unforeseen is our only hope.”
– Eugenio Montale
However, the question becomes: how do we stay awake to the ultimate needs of our hearts? How do we not simply fall back into our old manner of living, the very things that the event jolted us out from? How do we become free?
“But the heart on its own is powerless to break free.”
How does the man in the burning building break free? Only when the man is rescued by the fireman can he become free. His cry must not merely be listened to, but encountered. The fireman encounters the needs of the man, and the man encounters the needs of the fireman. They each carry one another out of danger and into life. Only when the cries of our hearts are rescued through a continual relationship with the other can they become free. In other words, the event must become a person. Not a one time occurrence that jolts us out of our daze, but an everlasting friendship. A continual lived experience.
“So what is friendship? Friendship in its minimal state, is the encounter of one person with another person whose destiny he or she desires more than his or her own life. I desire your destiny more than I desire my life. The other reciprocates this and desires my destiny more than his or her life. Friendship is like this, and the proof that this is true is that you’d want anyone you’d meet in the diversity of circumstances to understand this, so that everyone would embrace each other.”
– Luigi Giussani