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Kobe Bryant and Our Own Projections

Kobe Bryant died on Sunday at the age of 41.

Since his death, there has been an outpouring of posts, articles, tributes, and recaps of who he was.

Or perhaps, who we think he was. Or even, what he represented to us about ourselves and our own lives.

There have been people calling him an idol, a Catholic, a hero, a father, a competitor, or a perpetrator of sexual assault.

So many of those posts and articles seem to highlight just one of those facets. A sampling:

“He paved the way for me to go after my dreams”

“Kobe Bryant was a violent rapist and intimidated his 19-year-old victim into not testifying”

“Kobe Bryant shares how a Catholic priest changed his life”

“He was a father who witnessed his child’s first breath and then her last…”

He has been turned into a two-dimensional figure, either an example of what is bad and morally reprehensible or what is good and inspirational.

What I’ve consistently noticed is that the people who are posting articles or comments about him see him through a very specific, narrow lens. This narrow lens is ultimately a reflection of their own pain and trauma, their own fears, or their own hopes and dreams.

When people say “the universe is a mirror of who you are” or “you create your own life with your thoughts” this is an example of that sentiment at play.

I am not writing this in defense of the man. I did not know him personally. I am not that much of a basketball fan. I am not condoning his personal behavior. In fact, I know very little about him.

This has nothing to with him as a person, but rather us.

Somewhere along the line, we lost nuance. One cohort is shouting that Kobe was a good man. Another vehemently states he was a pariah.

He was, as is EVERYONE, complicated. If you were defined solely by your greatest or worst moments, how would you be looked on by the world? Would that encapsulate the truth of who you really are?

My wish is for us all to welcome nuance back into the room, so we can see Kobe as a complicated figure, just as anyone else on the planet.

For all those whose personal or collective trauma has been triggered by his name and face in the news, I hope you are able to find your way to healing and peace in your heart, mind, and body.

For all those who are grieving, I hope you are able to be with your feelings and find your way to continuing your own life as fully as you can.

For all those who are labelling him as some two-dimensional adjective of being a human, I hope you are find healing for the cause of your narrow lens, and you’re able to use his passing as an opportunity for your own growth.

For many people, his death will end up be a passing thought. It will be a relatively short-lived re-triggering of wounds or of joys, and most will resume back to their normal lives within a few days. Yet this cycle of projecting our best or worst onto a public figure will repeat itself the next time someone is in the news - for something wonderful or terrible.

I hope that we are able to use his passing as a catalyst for a deeper understanding of ourselves and of life. The more we are able to acknowledge the fullness - the beautiful as well as the downright ugly - inside ourselves, the more we are able to fully appreciate public figures (and everyone else!) as people and not representatives of the best or worst we can see through our own narrow lens.

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