My younger brother could probably have played whatever sport he wanted in high school and done pretty well at it. Maybe not baseball, because I doubt he had the attention span necessary to survive such a slow moving game. The point is, though, that he took to these sort of things quickly, and if he ever stuck to anything he became quite good at it. Once again, attention span is the enemy here.
Eventually, he did settle on one thing and stuck with it for several years. And as we expected, he became very, very good at it.
Oddly enough, though, it was bowling.
I’m not critiquing bowling. I enjoy it. I’m terrible at it, though, and I couldn’t imagine practicing bowling enough to become really good at it. Yet my brother did, and for that, I have to respect him. I greatly respect people who can do things I can’t.
I guess it’s because of that fact that I love those stories about the tragic hero. The stories about the heroic, loved figure whose fortune turns from good to bad. Yeah, everybody loves a rags to riches tale. I happen to feel a deeper love for a riches to disaster story, so long as the hero stands firm through it all.
My younger brother did something pretty cool when bowling. I was there to see it. It was a championship match against some other team who also inexplicably spent a lot of time bowling. Up until that point, my brother’s team had dominated, but the rules for some reason change when teams reach the championship match in the equivalent of a basketball game being decided with a free throw contest. Or the Miss America contest being decided by “personality” or whatever. I don’t really watch those too often.
We had feared that the rule change would greatly affect the outcome of the championship, as the other team was more balanced, whereas my brother’s team had better top players and worse bottom players. And as we feared, it soon became clear that the other team would win. It actually became fairly clear before the match was close to ending, which was painful to have to live through.
As the other team celebrated their inevitable victory with loud chubby grunts (they were a hefty team, and that’s all I remember about them), the older and more talented members of my brother’s team looked distraught. They had come close yet another year, only to be victims of a strange system. The situation sucked, is basically what I’m saying here.
My brother stood up for his last frame, the 10th, and calmly turned to his teammates. He could get three strikes in a row and it wouldn’t make a difference. The game was lost. So he turned to his teammates and said, “I’m sorry.” He was the captain, the leader. It was his responsibility to do all he could so they would win. He was shouldering that loss right there in front of them. “I’m sorry,” and he turned to bowl.
And with that, he promptly bowled three strikes in a row. Three perfect bowls that meant nothing to anyone except me.
I saw that moment and knew instantly what had just occurred. He took the responsibility, as a leader, that was not his to bear. He had done all that he could for his team. Other players were the ones who had underperformed, not him. But being the leader, he did what a good leader should do and proudly stood tall in defeat that was not his fault.
That’s likely the key to the whole thing. The Traigc Hero thing, I mean. The key is how the protagonist reacts during the stretch of bad luck. I recall Chuck Swindoll once saying that he viewed life as being 10% what actually happens to him and 90% how he reacts to it. The protagonist who reacts with strength, humility, and bravery is the hero we can all get behind. Don’t show me a hero who can sweet talk a nation into believing empty words. Don’t show me a merciless person who crushes his opposition and gloats. Show me somebody who stands tall in the midst of disaster. That’s heroism.
I don’t know if I’m capable of any of that, which is why I admire the trait so much. Or maybe I admire it because we tend to forget what leadership even is. We’re more interested in bold words and claims. We’re more interested in grand accomplishments and trophies on a shelf. Glory is all that matters. And I lack bold words and accomplishments and glory. So I’m scared, and I run.
I refuse to write, because I’m scared. I take months off of blogging and social media because when it comes down to it, I don’t have the boldness or glory that the rest of the internet lays claim to and I hate it and I”m afraid of it. Hate and fear. So much of my life is hatred and fear.
A few years back, basketball player Dennis Rodman was in a bad car accident. His vehicle flipped a few times, and somehow he walked out of it with barely a scratch. A friend asked if he was okay, and he replied with, “They can’t get rid of me.” Nobody has any clue who Dennis was referencing, but either way, that’s a pretty awesome way to deal with a car wreck.
Writing is a car wreck sometimes. Look around the web. It’s full of self-appointed experts who will tell you what is wrong with the nation or what is wrong with whatever Jesus it is that America worships or why the church needs fixing. They sit on a pedestal they themselves made and can see a million problems with everything around them. They can look at people they are supposedly brothers and sisters in Christ with and see everything their brothers and sisters do wrong. And if I’m honest? I often wish I could see the world in the same way they do. Or even more often, I wish I could throw all of that care away, live out the hatred and fear, and just spent my time in bars trying to hit on women or something.
I can’t see things like that, though. All I can see is a fascinating world in light of and in spite of my own brokenness.
But maybe that’s what the internet needs. Maybe I can write from the perspective of the anti-blogger. Maybe instead of speaking from my expertise, I can proudly speak from my ignorance. Maybe it would be refreshing for somebody to take a look at things without a bitter, cynical, judgmental eye. I don’t know. I so often live life with a chip on my shoulder that I’m pretty sure all I have is a bitter, cynical, judgmental eye. But I can also appreciate the irony that exists in the discussion of humbly leading a revolution against the outspoken idiot majority that exists out here in cyberspace. And maybe that’s also the key.
The irony of leadership is that it requires humility. There it is right there. Leadership isn’t about bold words and accomplishments and hype and going viral and damning all the people we look down upon from our self-constructed pedestals and seeking self-glory. It’s more about turning to those who we want to look down upon and apologizing that you couldn’t do more for them. It’s about charging directly into this messy car wreck we all exist in and calmly saying, “They can’t get rid of me.” And you can’t. You can try, dearly beloved Internet, but you can’t. You can’t get rid of me.
Some Jewish guy a long time ago said that it was a truly unique thing when a man laid down his life for his friends. He then backed up those words by willingly, humbly laying down his life with a quiet humble boldness for a bunch of people who hated him. For you and me, who hate him daily. I’m not sure there’s a more tragically heroic idea than that. I guess that’s what draws me in despite my constant desire to run away.
So in other words, I’m back.