Support Local Inspiration

I wish I could be like Bieber and is that Kanye West? I want to be like him too. Image via justinbieberneversaynever.com

Justin Bieber has a new movie called “Never Say Never,”  whose website promises, “Find out what’s possible when you never give up,” and gives this synopsis:

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the inspiring true story and rare inside look at the rise of Justin from street performer in the small town of Stratford, Ontario to internet phenomenon to global super star culminating with a dream sold out show at the famed Madison Square Garden in 3-D.

Seeing the Bieb’s movie made me think of a funeral I went to last night for my friend Clemente.

Clemente died about a week ago.  He was only 50 or so, but had been dealing with numerous ailments for a while.  Though his death was well within the realm of possibility, it was still a shock.

Clemente was a complicated figure I knew through a 12-step community. He was an outspoken advocate for taking newly sober people swiftly through all 12 steps.  He ridiculed the “easy does it”/“don’t drink and go to meetings” approach to getting sober, thinking it homicidal for someone who needed real relief from his demons.  His rhetoric was not hollow.  He practiced what he preached.  In the 5 years I knew him, I saw him repeatedly give his time and energy to countless men and women, many of whom seemed like lost causes.  Many of these people have stayed sober to this day.  Clemente saved lives.

His charity didn’t buffer an edge about him.  He was a pissed-off man.  He thought other people were doing things wrong and he let them know.  He was controlling and unyielding.  He felt misunderstood and ostracized and carried a major chip on his shoulder; this disposed people to misunderstand and ostracize him.   He was pedantic and self-righteous.  When he got deep into Roman Catholicism in the last couple years, his righteousness was turbocharged.

Yet in all his complexity, in all his abrasiveness and anger, Clemente was an inspirational figure in my life.  Unlike the Justin Bieber’s of the world (or his more sophisticated equivalents), he wasn’t an abstraction or a snapshot.  His trajectory to greatness was not linear or nicely packaged.  He wasn’t handsome.  He made weird grunting sounds due to his medical conditions.  He lived with his mom and got fired from his last job as a doorman because he was supposedly overheard saying he hated rich people (he confessed to me that he thought that, but never said it).  Yet more than most people, he “never said never” when it came to giving himself to those in need.   He was a pissed off Puerto Rican who showed me what is possible when you never give up. I’ll miss him.

I like to keep my inspiration local.  I’ve got many people like Clemente in my life—highly flawed people who kick ass anyway.  Many of these people, like Clemente, are not young, handsome, pretty, rich, famous or charming.  And yet it is through my intimacy with them—through knowing the specifics of their challenges and how they surmount them—that my admiration grows.  It is the reality of them that inspires me, not the fantasy.  I don’t need movies or magazine profiles to show me that people can overcome obstacles.  I’ve got phone numbers.

With this in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. If your primary source of inspiration comes from people you don’t know, get off it. It’s easy to love people from afar.  Go local for your inspiration.
  2. If you don’t have many inspirational people in your life, don’t ditch your friends, start inspiring them. You’re probably a downer, so start sourcing inspiration.  You’ll attract inspiring people and help the people already in your life.
  3. Start looking for inspiration in the people in your life. Everyone’s doing their best.  Find that best in them and acknowledge it.

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