It was like a switch was thrown. I was at an open gym, shooting baskets with a bunch of guys, talking about the news of the day: the apparent suicide of former NFL great and presumptive Hall of Famer Junior Seau. Many of the guys couldn’t believe that a man who was so famous, so rich, who had so much, could be depressed. What could possibly be so bad about his life that it wasn’t worth living? The tone of the conversation quickly became derisive. Seau must have been weak. Fragile. Pathetic. Then someone suggested that his brain may have been irreparably damaged by the numerous minor head traumas he suffered over the course of his playing career.Read the rest.
It was like a switch was thrown. All of a sudden, no one had a cutting remark. No one was talking about how satisfied they were with so much less than Seau had. We recalled the story of Dave Duerson, another former NFL player who committed suicide, who had shot himself in the chest expressly so that his brain could be studied; he had known his depression was physically sourced (subsequent medical examination of his brain proved him right). The mood in the gym became somber, and the tone, compassionate.
I couldn’t believe how quickly derision became compassion. Then I realized what had really happened: the group had collectively transitioned from seeing Seau as basically “able,” that is, in control of and responsible for his actions and mental state, to basically “disabled,” that is, the victim of forces beyond his control. It is only natural to feel derision for people who are able to control themselves and do not, and just as natural to feel compassion for people who are unable to control themselves.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012