In this April 28, 1967 file photo, Muhammad Ali is escorted from the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in Houston by Lt. Col. J. Edwin McKee, commandant of the station, after Ali refused Army induction. (Source: AP)
When I heard that The Greatest had passed away, I felt that same odd feeling I felt in 1968, when as a child of 13, I heard the news that Martin Luther King had died.
I wept, not knowing why, not really knowing how his life had affected me, or why. I grew up in another part of the world away from him - but I knew and heard and felt the honesty of his words.
I felt the same way about hearing Muhammed Ali speak. There was a poignancy and honesty in his words that cut to the core.
I've become a fan of his daughter Maryum having seen her on the reality show "60 days in prison" or whatever that show is called. It's a shame that it didn't live up to its billing. Thomas Mott Osbourn was an attorney who voluntarily put himself into jail so he could show the corruption going on at the highest levels. His book changed how prisons operate. But as evidence from that show, they haven't changed much since 100 years ago.
I'm sorry that the prison officials were more interested in "how do drugs get into prison" than they were in "how can we learn how to treat human beings like human beings so that they can return to their life as individuals?"
Maryum obviously attempted to do that - but the show fell short of allowing any discussion of that. It was about "finding the contraband" and creating an environment of fear. Having worked in the film biz a long time, I know how reality shows are scripted, how they're shot, and how they try to manipulate the message. It's a shame, because at the end it becomes what Muhammed Ali observed about boxers:
In 1970, Ali shared what he felt about two black men boxing. “Half the crowd is white. We’re just like two slaves in that ring. The masters get two of us big old black slaves and let us fight it out while they bet: ‘My slave can whup your slave.’ That’s what I see when I see two black people fighting.”
It's what we do here on the planet. We watch ourselves attack each other on television every night. We watch people in poverty shooting other people in poverty, we watch scripted shows about billionaires cheating, lying, stealing from other billionaires, we have politicians running for office who put people down on a daily basis - especially one for how a person looks, their heritage, their religion - it doesn't matter. It's always PUT THE OTHER PERSON DOWN.
But the truth is odd.
Between lives we are all equal.
We are exactly the same.
We don't see sinners as evil, or celebrities as famous.
We see them as other souls. Other individuals who are glowing with light, who may have caused suffering, who may be suffering themselves. But we are all equal.
We aren't black or white, as if that mattered, we aren't male or female, as if that mattered, we aren't tall or short or rich or poor - as if that mattered. We are all equal. Always equal.
Sure, there are people who are wiser, smarter, have been around the block more than us - they're our teachers. But they regard us as bright, exciting, thrilling individuals - no less important, no less part of the vast inexpressable network of souls that are in the universe.
And when people return to the flipside, whether through a near death experience,or under hypnosis - they all say relatively the same thing - they talk about that experience of feeling "unconditional love." That's love that has no conditions.
Hard to find it here on the planet, we might get it from a parent, or from a loved one, or give it to our children. But to everyone else - extremely difficult to give out unconditional love because we're so busy judging them by how they look, their heritage, their race, their gender, their sexuality, their body parts, their lack of body parts, their afflictions, their handicaps, their legs, their feet, their toes - when all of it is a projection.
All of it is a projection - like light flickering in a movie theater. Lights on a screen. Because we are what we project. And on the flipside, when people show up who are no longer who they once were, they project the essence of who they were - and we see them in those brief moments not as wounded individuals, but as the whole person they once were. We see them as they project themselves to us. We see them as THEY WANT TO BE SEEN.
Not as we used to see them - as some object of pity, or scorn, or love, or lust, or whatever nonsense we project onto them - they're doing the projecting now, and they can appear to us in whatever form they want to. It's usually at the point they felt the best about themselves, and yet they want the person they're visiting to be able to recognize them, and not jump out of their skin when they appear.
Maryum "May May" Ali, eldest daughter of Muhammad Ali, embraces her father. (Maryum Ali)
I've seen it. I know many who've seen it as well. I've filmed people seeing it. Seeing their loved ones once again, holding their hand, hearing their voice, feeling that unconditional love.
Meanwhile, the veil continues to thin. I've had this experience (my father visiting me with info about his pals on the flipside, my aunt had her husband appear at her bed to say goodbye, our kids have been visited by my dad and our pal Luana, etc).
Maryum told the LA Times: On Sunday, Maryum Ali shared memories of her father with The Times, often still referring to him in the present tense, because “his energy is present,” she said. “It will always be around.”
"My father has many sides, like most people do. My father is a gregarious person. He’s upbeat. He has a positive, optimistic outlook on life. He’s a generous person, and loving. He simply loves people. So when people came to visit him in his hotel suite or came up to him on the street, he would look them dead in the eye and [say], “What’s your name, how ya doing.” He loved the energy of people.
Everyone who talked to him or dealt with him in some way, shape, form or fashion remembers the human qualities of him. They called him the peoples’ champ. That what makes him so beloved. My father really was a ball of love. He really exuded that love to even a stranger. He didn’t treat that stranger as inferior. I am just so happy that I was able to experience that quality as a girl looking up and seeing him interact with people.
What did he teach you?
The beauty of him is that he made time and made it a priority to be a good father. So the time he had with us, he was really trying to build up our character. I’m the woman that I am today because of him. I really listened to his lessons: How to be a respectful woman, how not to let men chip away at your esteem, how not to get involved in the dark side of society, in bad habits; stay healthy, watch who your friends are.
And what’s most important for me is that I love my religion of Islam. I stand up for being a Muslim, with all the craziness going on, all the negativity in this country about who Muslims are. I am proud to be a Muslim and unapologetic because of my father. He was going to give up his boxing profession for his faith. That was a beautiful example to have guide me.
How do you think he would like to be remembered?
I really think he just wanted to be seen as a human being who loved humanity, who wanted to fight for humanity, for all people. When you look at religious wars, when you look at racial tensions, all of that is divisiveness. And it comes in many shapes and forms: the pretty, the ugly, the black, the white. My father, through the essence of what he was, thought there should be no divisions, that this is wrong, that this is not what God wants. God made all of us beautiful in his image. Outside of the ring, that’s what he was about. And that’s how he wants to be remembered. A man who used his celebrity, who used his God-given talent to propagate the idea that we should not be divided as the human race in any way, shape or form. To me that’s the essence of him."
This just in from Maryum - a flipside tweet -
maryum ali @maryum7
"I know him as THE GREATEST father. I love you so much, Dad. His spirit visited me last night. Thank you world for your love & support!!!"
Thanks for sharing him with us.