Monday, July 17, 2006

I Want to "Be Like Jason"

During the heyday of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls the slogan, "Be Like Mike" was everywhere and rightly so.

Jordan was/is the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of basketball sneakers. He took his god-given athletic ability and combined that with sheer determination to create a hoop dynasty in Chicago. During his tenure in the Windy City, the Bulls won six championships in eight years.

Now that he's retired from the game and the Jordan era has passed, I think we need a new and better slogan for everyone in the new millennium.

My suggestion is: "I want to be like Jason," as in Jason Becker. For those who don't know, Becker is an amazingly talented guitar player and musician who over a decade ago was diagnosed with ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.

The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually lead to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. Yet, through it all, for the vast majority of people, their minds remain unaffected.

It is the most cruel and brutal of all diseases, one that leaves the body ravaged, but the mind untouched.

After losing his ability to play guitar, Becker moved to the keyboards and when he couldn't play with two hands, he played with one. Eventually, all movement ceased.

Despite the obstacles, Becker recorded the album, 'Perspective.' It was composed entirely on his Macintosh with guest performers setting in. The album, released in 1996, was picked up for major label distribution in 2001 with all the proceeds going to the ALS Therapy Development Foundation.

More than 10 years after his initial diagnosis, Becker is still creating music. He uses eye movements to write his songs note by note on computer and with some movement in his jaw, hits the mouse key to compose. I'm not a musician, but to be able to write complex musical pieces, to have them already finished note by note in your head, is truly amazing!

Becker is an inspiration for us all. Doctors said he would live for about three years and he's gone way beyond that. His music has grown much more complex and diverse. He is thriving instead of surviving.

I'm sure Jason would want things to be different. I'm sure he would love to walk again and lead a normal, healthy life, but that's not the fate nature dealt him. He was put on this earth to create music and inspire people to new levels of awareness and possibility.

The majority of individuals would surrender and give in to this disease, waiting to die, not Jason Becker. He conquered his adversity through sheer determination, persistence, perseverance and positive belief in himself. He looked at ALS and said, "You will not defeat me and I will grow stronger from this."

The most difficult and courageous thing Becker has done is not in facing ALS head on, but in transcending the limitations of his own mind. Becker's body maybe broken, but his soul is stronger than a hundred men. His spirit and indomitable will soar high above the clouds in that rarefied air known as contentment, accomplishment and peace of mind. It's a place very few have ever been to or seen. For Becker, it's his home.

His life is a lesson for us all, a syllabus of what we can and should do with the time allotted to us. Instead of whining and complaining about the hard day we've had or how life isn't going the way we want, take a look at the blueprint Becker has given us. He's taught us that all, and I do mean all, adversity can be overcome with determination, belief and persistence and be replaced with positive and uplifting achievement.

Becker, along with others like him, are living proof that the mind is capable of any and all things.

Michael Jordan was a great athlete who accomplished much on and off the basketball court. He is an amazing athletic specimen. But when all is said and done, I would much rather "Be Like Jason" instead.

If you would like to help eradicate ALS, please go to the ALS Therapy Development Foundation or the ALS Association and make a donation.

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2 Comments:

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