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Life Through the Lens: Carrying the weight of the world

“This is my treasure — please use it wisely!” — Earl Woods on Tiger

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Fun fact: the world weighs 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. No one was born to carry that weight. It will flatten the greatest, the strongest, and the most epically-gifted that mankind can offer. It will annihilate and obliterate and ne’er skip a beat.

“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ’em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV.

“The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living.

“Now, I’m gonna set that backpack on fire. What do you want to take out of it? What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember. Drink some ginkgo and let the photos burn. In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it?”

“Up in the Air” (2009)

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Everyone’s backpack is verging on unbearable, the weight increasingly daily. We know the effort is futile, but we continue to pack that backpack. It is human nature to shove, cram, and force as much into it as possible … the insist “we could always fit a little bit more.” Other people’s problems … I’ve got room for those. Hypothetical and improbable disasters … I can fit those. Societal issues, political turmoil, inescapable epidemics … just give it here. Before you know it, you are unable to move due to the weight of the world.

The key is not medication. The secret is not stronger shoulders. Like the above quote, the only valid solution is to get rid of some of that weight! Carry only what truly matters in your precious (but limited) backpack.

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The story of Tiger Woods is one of extremes: from the top of the world to the bottom of despair. From admired by billions to scorned by all. From poster-boy-next-door to mugshot-outsider, Tiger’s life has seen it all!

He was born with a golf club in his hand and a father determined to keep it there. Once Tiger showed extraordinary talent as a toddler, the train never stopped after that. Tiger’s father Earl would not accept anything less than world domination … and I am not exaggerating.

From shattering records to shattering barriers, Tiger was unstoppable for over a decade. He was unrelenting and unflappable. Once he was established in the sports world, the media world claimed their piece. Tiger became the face of global brands, the image of billion-dollar-companies, and the object of the world’s obsession. He was mobbed by fans and hounded by photographers … his life had been sacrificed to the almighty god of American Fame. Nothing could have made Earl Woods any happier.

Then came the alcohol, the drugs, the partying and the girls. When the weight of the world is placed on a young man, that young man will fold … and Tiger did so enormously. He lost everything and picked up a heavy-dose of contempt. He was now discarded and hated.

Thank goodness, after years of being buried under the weight of the world, it seems Tiger has lightened his backpack. In 2019, Tiger came back (much lighter) and won his first major in 11 years!

HBO’s documentary “Tiger” does a wonderful job showing this large story in all of its grandeur and agony. The footage is intimate and extensive – the interviews are enlightening – the rise and fall and rise of Tiger Woods is a caution to all who yearn for greatness. Beware the weight!

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REPORT CARD

“Tiger”

Grade: A-

Comment: Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

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The story of Oscar Pistorius begins in tragedy: little Oscar was born without the proper bones in his legs and feet needed to walk. Oscar was destined for a life of struggle and handicap. Before his first birthday, the difficult decision was made to get his legs amputated.

South Africa was a country in uproar and uprising, but little Oscar flourished. He not only learned to walk on his prosthesis – he ran! He wrestled! He did everything an able-bodied boy would do with an extra measure of determination.

After his father left and his mother died, Oscar was sent to an all-boys boarding school. It was there that his natural abilities were given a chance to shine. He entered the Paralympics at the age of 18 and won gold while competing above his classification and setting a new world record. From that moment on, the Oscar frenzy began.

For the next eight years, he would tackle stereotypes, smash records, and overcome obstacles previously viewed as impossible. His goal: to compete in the Olympics. His goal: to show the world that a physical disability is no reason to settle for anything less than excellence. His confidence, his charisma, and his humility all made him the perfect package for celebrity, endorsement, and fame. He quickly became the spokesman and hero of South Africa and the differently-abled community. Talk about pressure! The weight of the world descended on Oscar … and Oscar crumbled.

The ESPN documentary series “The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius” not only tells of Oscar’s rise but juxtaposes that with his subsequent fall by also telling the story of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Fresh off his Olympic triumph, Oscar shoots and kills his girlfriend. Was it an accident? Was it anger? Hero or villain?

The series does a great job at portraying the complexity of a man’s life and the tragedy of a girl’s death. It digs deep into character, into culture, and into context. The film refuses to demonize Oscar but, instead, gives a full vision of a man’s inherent good and evil. It will leave you heartbroken for Reeva and for Oscar, for love-had and love-lost, for pressures applied and futures stolen. Saddle-up, though … it is almost six hours long!

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REPORT CARD

“The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius”

Grade: A-

Comment: An effective portrait of a fallen man.

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