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The Greatest … and the path to a more independent life

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
Muhammad Ali

King of the World

It’s hard to imagine a world without Muhammad Ali in it. I am not a black man and not a boxer, and before Ali I never would have thought that a such a man could have changed the world that we live in. The great wonder of Ali is that he was such a man, and if he called himself The Greatest he wasn’t praising himself enough. Yes, he became Heavyweight Champion of the World 3 times, but our world is full of great athletes who are marvelous on their stages but inconsequential everywhere else.

Ali was world champion and had won 29 straight fights when he was called up, and at 25 years of age he probably hadn’t even reached his athletic peak when Howard Cosell asked him “Why don’t you take the step?” Ali was and remained a conscientious objector, and he never took the step into military service but in doing so he took the step into something even greater.

Muhammad was Jonathan E, the protagonist in the 1975 movie Rollerball.

It’s OK if you don’t remember Rollerball. Despite having the greatest party scene ever shown in a movie (either proving (or disproving, depending on how you feel about it)) the notion that “open carry” at parties is/is not a good idea), the movie was a product of 1975 (Best Picture that year: Rocky). It was born into 1975 as the leisure suit era’s dystopic vision of the future, and for most people it’s stayed there. To bring it back a little you might check out the Rollerball trailer — this is the movie that seared Bach’s Toccata in D Minor into public consciousness:

“No player is greater than the game itself.”

No player is greater than the game itself… That is the wonder of Muhammad Ali, who was a champion in a sport that defies champions. In boxing the amount of time it takes to build the skill to become champion is perilously close to the amount of time that it takes to become too old and beaten to be able to compete. Boxing is a sport that eats its young.

What’s My Name?

Muhammad Ali was greater than the game itself, and the wonder of Ali was the causes that he engaged with that greatness. The former Cassius Clay adopted Islam and became Muhammad Ali. Because he wouldn’t “take the step” he lost three years of his career in his absolute prime — years even his greatness could never bring back. He was and remained a black man in a white culture — true to his own ideals, and an absolute internationalist who has probably been, for most of my lifetime, the most famous man in the world. Muhammad Ali’s life freed Lew Alcindor to become Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and Ali showed how greatness could carve a path in the wilderness.

Carving a Path in the Wilderness

I am now a transplant — coming home to a place I’d never been before in Bemidji, Minnesota. My work is Internet-based, a world where on some level it’s possible to live almost anywhere, as long as I have an Internet connection and a good airport nearby. Kate’s work is also mobile, and life events led us to ask the question: How do we want to live?

Minnesota it is. People laugh when I tell them that we “discovered” Bemidji in a spreadsheet, but Bemidji rises up naturally if you’re looking for a college town with a northern climate, with a reasonable cost of living and lots of things to do. We found a home and up we came. There are loons out on the lake, frogs in the swamps (making nighttime MUCH louder than daytime!) and ticks in the forests. “How you we want to live…?” ...As harmoniously as possible.

Tuning Out the Noise

One of the wonders of Northern Minnesota is the quiet. We may have fiber-Internet out to the house, but there’s not a human-made sound to be heard if we turn everything off at night. Turning down the noise outside only made it seem natural to try to turn down the noise INSIDE — in the online world where Google lives.

Google was a superb search engine, but Google has evolved into (and maybe always was) something that at the fringes is just creepy. Just try entering the phrase “Google accused” in the alternative browser DuckDuckGo and read the “Don’t Be Evil” == FAIL wonders that appear:

  • Hiding news to swing elections
  • Wiretapping
  • Invading student’s privacy

And all that’s before we even get to inversion and tax evasion. Google was a great step forward, but it might be in the way of harmony so it’s time for Google to go. Google can remain a great company for many, but it’s time, as former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan used to say: “…to head in a different direction.”

How do you want to live?

It’s possible to live Google free. Next time I’ll lay out the details of how:

  • to get off corporate GMAIL
  • to start getting of regular GMAIL
  • see video without YouTube, and finally…
  • to search Googlelessly and browse outside the realm

It’s been an interesting adventure. To Google’s credit, so much of today’s web experience begins and ends with Google.

We can live independently — let’s create our own world…

“I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.” ~ Muhammad Ali