Monday Musings 168: When Gods have feet of clay
We ae discovering that Gods have feet of clay. This is a season for fallen heroes. The latest one is the highly inspiring ‘blade runner’ Oscar Pictorius, who ran the last Olympics in the so called normal category, now charged with killing his girlfriend. A while back it was the trial and sentence of the legendary Rajat Gupta of McKinsey in the much talked about case of insider trading. Much earlier than that was the fall from grace of the legendary Lance Armstrong in the case of doping and even earlier than that there were stories of Tiger woods, Bill Clinton, OJ Simpson; and closer home we have stories of Satyam ‘Raju’, and the Reebok cooking of books by its managing director, Shubhinder singh prem. What binds them is the fact they had already made it big – their fame, or now notoriety, is not because of what they have done now, but that they chose to walk the path of infamy after they had already been famous.
Almost all of them had so much going for them. They epitomised glory and success achieved through the dint of hard work. They were symbols of what brute ambition could do to the trajectory of an ordinary man. They showcased not only their indomitable spirit, but in their unwillingness to let their circumstance decide the extent of their accomplishment, they became role models to millions.
When the blade man ran, undeterred by the absence of limbs, a lump rose in the billions who watched him. He made us feel so puny caught in our mundane concerns. It is said that her mother used to comment for him and his brother as they would go out to play “(to the elder one) you put on your shoes, and Oscar, you put on your legs”. Rajat Gupta, was a text book middle class dream come true. He reached the highest echelons’ of the corporate world through sheer drive. When one saw him rubbing shoulders with global business and political honchoes, one could not help admire how much in a single life, bereft of pedigree and a family surname, one could achieve through the sheer dint of hard work – the good old fashioned HARD work! When one read stories of Lance Armstrong’s return from the battle of cancer and go on to win the tour de France over and over again, one remained in awe of the sheer greatness of the man and his feat. He was some kind of a superhuman who made us realise how tiny our vision was how tinier our efforts were. Each of these heroes had so much to offer us in terms of inspiration. Ordinary mortals could only swing between disbelief at what these could manage within one life and our own state of mediocrity.
Then the heroes fell – one by one like nine pins. They gave away all that they had to lapse of judgement, or sudden flare of anger or greed or indiscretion. They grander the rise was, the more tragic the fall became. The moot question is WHY?
What would the shrink say on these matters? What would the psychoanalyst, the therapist, the psychiatrist offer as an explanation? Is it compulsive flirting with the wrong, the high one gets when he lives on the edge? Is it sheer greed – the unadulterated human desire for MORE? Is it depravity or deprivation at a fundamental level, a kind of unfulfillment, that seeks completion in doing what is wrong but exciting? It is a blinded state of entitlement that one starts believing in as one grows in stature and power? Is it the grandeur of invincibility that one builds around as one fights battle after battle to rise up, and then everything becomes yet another battle?
What do we do with these stories now. Should we continue to get inspired with them or should we not? What will we remember them for – the extraordinary tale till the fatal moment or that one little, but decisive blot that spoilt the story for them? The fall does not take away anything from what they achieved and yet only the story does not tell the whole truth. If the meteoric rise made them God-like, the drastic fall revealed that even Gods can have feet of clay.