Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 35: Strange (online) bedfellows

Who is the most random person you follow online? Choose someone you don't know, don't know how you found, or even someone you love to hate. Why do you do it?

I've been wanting to write a post about this for months. I follow Mike Tyson on Twitter. I should really hate Mike Tyson, and I think in many ways I do. But he's also unbelievably interesting, and his transparent quest for grace over the past few years has been undeniably compelling.

Let's look at the facts: the man was convicted of rape in the 90's, and of spousal abuse in a marriage that his ex-wife called "torture, pure hell." He has eight children, from multiple women, and until recently, has said that he felt no reason to be faithful to his girlfriends or wives. Oh and he bit a man's ear off.

Mike Tyson is a terrible human being, certainly. But he's the first one to admit that now.

"The first stage of my life was just a whole bunch of selfishness. Just a whole bunch of gifts to myself and people who didn't necessarily deserve it. Now I'm 44, and I realize that my whole life is just a fucking waste... So if there's a big plan now, it's just to give—it's selflessness, caring for the people who deserve it. Because I think I'm a pig. I have this uncanny ability to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'This is a pig. You are a fucking piece of shit.'" - Details magazine, Aug. 2010

Tyson was raised amidst violence, and then made a career out of what he calls "wanting to kill, maim" people - he says that all good boxers are trained to act like monsters in the ring. Then he took this lifestyle outside the ring, and he lost everything because of it. When his daughter died tragically in 2009, he reevaluated his life and has since dedicated himself to a full, lifelong recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as his admitted rage issues.

In a culture where we seem to forgive and forget horrific acts committed by the rich and famous (Vick's lauded NFL comeback, Sheen's current sold-out tour) after minimal apology or retribution, I think it's admirable that Tyson is consistently working to apologize for his past transgressions rather than ignore them. (Perhaps he could tutor Chris Brown?)

He tweets about philosophy and his new vegan lifestyle, of sitting with his wife while she breastfeeds their child. On a recent trip to Prague, he wished to be at home with his kids. He talks often about how his wife's love is the greatest gift he's been given, and that he doesn't feel he deserves it. I really want to believe it's not an act, even after his account this week changed from gratitude to promotion of his new iPhone game.

Why am I so invested in his recovery? I think it stems from knowing the inherent narcissism of addicts firsthand; Tyson represents the post-addiction stage that friends and families of addicts always wish for, but aren't ever sure is possible.

Last week he tweeted, "I'm glad I grew up to be a human being, instead of a millionaire or billionaire."

I hope that first part is true, though I suspect he's still a millionaire.


Joel said...

I really enjoyed this post.