The Lives of the People

I read two essays yesterday that reminded me how differently we live our lives (as if Facebook weren’t reminder enough!). Of course, the variety of viable choices available to different people can differ wildly depending on when and where we’re born and how we’re raised; and while I don’t think we necessarily have as much choice about what actions we take and even what attitude to adopt as we sometimes think we do, yet I think that each person has some choice in these matters, and a life is shaped by these small and large choices.

* * * * * * * *

The first piece I read was an essay about “opting out of the national religion” of the U.S., i.e., shopping, which described a bit of Kathy Kelly’s life and accomplishments before offering her suggestion that Americans might stop our devotion to buying things for a bit and instead focus our undistracted energy and attention on the poor around the world, “especially those who are stuck in warzones.”

Kathy Kelly

is a three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and lives a fascinating life. She is an advocate of nonviolence on a global scale and has been arrested more than 60 times in the US and abroad for nonviolent protests. Kathy has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq more than 26 times, remaining in dangerous combat zones during US led military strikes. She risked her life by going to Baghdad during the United State’s infamous ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. … Just a few hours after our interview, Kathy flew to Kabul, Afghanistan, to meet with young Afghans about building peace in their country.

* * * * * * * *

Very soon after reading about Kelly, I read the obituary for the boxer, Héctor “Macho” Camacho, who was gunned down in a car in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at age 50. His friend Adrian Mojica Moreno was also killed. There were nine bags of cocaine in Moreno’s pockets, plus a 10th bag open in the car.

Camacho, a boxing champion in three weight classes, was flamboyant:

He was known for his hairdo, which featured a spit curl over his forehead; his clownish antics at news conferences; his brashness and wit, especially whenever a reporter with a pad or a microphone was around; and his dazzling outfits. He variously entered the ring in a diaper, a Roman gladiator’s outfit, a dress, an American Indian costume complete with headdress, a loincloth and a black fox fur robe with his nickname, Macho, stitched across the back in white mink.

He was also

a brawler, a serial shoplifter, an admitted drug user and a car thief …. He was arrested numerous times on charges including [car theft], domestic abuse, possession of a controlled substance, burglary and trying to take an M-16 rifle through customs. This year he turned himself in after a warrant charged him with beating one of his sons. A trial was pending at his death.

I notice a couple of similarities in the lives of Kelly and Camacho, even within these very cursory accounts: both were arrested over and over again, and both to some extent chose dangerous vocations, in the midst of violence.

I can’t help but think of lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

More on Kelly and Camacho at Wikipedia.

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