Saturday, February 13, 2010

Of Being Human

Yesterday, after the tragic death of the Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, I found myself watching over and over again the video clip of his fatal crash. It wasn’t this extra need for pathos in my life or a sensationalistic voyeurism that made me revisit his death. It was as if by watching it I could somehow understand the transformation: a vital, young man jumping onto a piece of metal, morphed into a torpedo, becoming human again only when he crumpled. The dissonance of that is obsessing me.

Where was he; who was he before the crash? Was he feeling anything as he slid down the track at 140km/hr? What was he thinking? Seeing it on TV was like watching a plastic Barbie doll sliding down a tunnel one’s brother might compose to irritate his little sister: sit the doll on a coaster, shoot her down the Hotwheels track and hope the inevitable crash will be spectacular. But this was no Barbie doll, nor child’s play.

I know and appreciate that this young man chose and understood the high risks of his sport but his death touched me deeply. The metaphoric image, perhaps, even more. Mr. Kumaritashvili seemed an automaton as he careened down the slope. I only saw his humanness after his death. Was this some sort of metaphor for who we are as people? Hurtling towards some inevitable end, not recognizable as humans until its too late?

Let us remember Mr. Kumaritashvili’s death in sorrow for his family and friends. But let his death also remind us to look into the eyes of loved ones and strangers alike and see their humanness— their strengths and weaknesses; fears and courage. Let us see them at all times, whether they are racing around, seemingly out of control, or when they are still and can blessedly see us back. Let us open our hearts and truly feel the wondrous thing it is to be human.

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