Through-out our lifetime we will all draw inspiration from different people. From the friends and family close to us as well as those who we may never meet, but whose stories we are familiar with due to the media.
A couple of days back, as you already know, Muhammad Ali died. This, I’m sure, is not news to you – which, if you think about it, is quite an astonishing fact. I can say in full confidence that you have all heard of Muhammad Ali and are aware of his passing no matter what country you’re from.
Ali became a symbol of the 20th century, famous for his boxing – being the first man to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, as well as his grace and movement in the ring – he shall nonetheless be remembered by more of us for his way with words. David Remnick in his book, The King of the World, writes: “He hit people for a living, and yet by middle age he would be a symbol not merely of courage, but of love, of decency, even a kind of wisdom.”
Ali was a poet, and often predicted the outcome of his fights with such rhetoric (definitely worth a Google, if you aren’t familiar with it – highly entertaining words from a man who narrowly scraped through school). Ali was stripped of his world title and denied a boxing license and passport following his refusal to take up arms in the USA’s war with Vietnam. He was bullied by the state in a time where oppression was prevalent against black Americans, yet Ali stood firm. He fought for four years, and his conviction was finally overturned in 1970.
In 1984, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Remnick writes: “Parkinson’s is a disease of the nervous system that stiffens the muscles and freezes the face into a stolid mask. Motor control degenerates. Speech degenerates. Some people hallucinate or suffer nightmares. As the disease progresses, even swallowing can become a terrible trial.” A man so well-known for his words, his quips and his humour, was deprived of his ability to speak, yet he remained a hero for millions of people all around the world.
The title of this post is from the words of Muhammad Ali following his victory against Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World for the first time on the 25th February 1964. These words should be remembered in context to the attitude towards black Americans and the racial divide that split America. Going into the fight, Ali didn’t stand a chance. The odds were 7/1 against him, and the reporters were planning the quickest way to the hospital so that they could interview him after the fight – if he was still alive that is. Ali defeated Liston, with the latter refusing to stand up from his stool at the start of the seventh round. The no-hope became world champion. Ali certainly shook up the world – neither boxing or the world would be the same again – that is his legacy.
This post could never do Muhammad Ali’s story any justice, that’s not the point. My aim is to encourage you to see the light where there is n0ne, and to hold hope in your heart, when the world is against you.
Inspiration takes many forms.
I’ll leave you with a thought, often attributed to Ali. It’s one that I try to live by, maybe you can too?