2 min read

Generosity, Yogi Berra, MF DOOM, stories, villains, assumptions

Originally published January 11, 2021


Here’s how this will work: I’ll share what I pondered throughout the past week, along with a link or source if pertinent. Then I’ll briefly write about (some of) the connections I’m making.

  • People who are generous tend to fall either at the top or the bottom of success metrics. Why? --> Adam Grant in conversation with Knowledge@Wharton
  • Yogi Berra was heckled for being “ugly” and “awkward” before he became one of the best and most loved in the history of baseball, not just because of his statistics but because of his personality. This sweet book I bought for my 6-year-old (& myself) is a good one: Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra
  • MF Doom was trying to be a villain and is mourned as a hero. Jack Hamilton for Slate: “MF DOOM was hip-hop’s greatest supervillain, a virtuoso of mystery and subterfuge: What would be more diabolically DOOM than faking his own death? Even now, days later, part of me holds on to hope that somewhere there’s an empty casket, a missing mask, another improbable comeback on the way.”
  • What do we tell ourselves about our story? And how does gaslighting over Facebook work into it?
  • How would a villain want to die? To look heroic — to “win”?
  • More on generosity: “Can you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved?” (H/t to my mom for this one)
  • Cheryl Strayed (in a talk for Substack On): Excavate assumptions about yourself and others

How is this connected?

Yogi and MF DOOM: Both men with magnetism. Both with a powerful story. Yogi had a story thrust on him early, and he worked to disprove it. MF DOOM crafted a powerful story, and now, after his death, it lives so convincingly that some might not believe he’s really dead.

Villains and death: In my novel, a man named Dell dies heroically, saving someone in a burning building. And BAM, his story is set: He was a hero. But what if he was not a great guy? What if he was a jerk who did something really good and that accidentally killed him?

Assumptions and our stories: No one knew what was going through Dell’s mind when he ran into the burning building to save someone. His wife would assume he was being arrogant -- he thought he was invincible -- based on her knowledge of his personality. The mother of the child he saved would assume that he was selfless and kind; he did save her child, after all. The reporter writing the story would rather write “Hero saves child” than something more complicated.

Generosity and individuality: If you’re a narcissist, you do things that make you look good. You stoke the fire of your persona. You select traits and do something to uphold them. If you are a ‘good man’ and you’re faced with a burning building, a child inside, and people watching, you select ‘run inside, save the child.’ That decision, when it causes your death, outshines everything else. Should it? Should it -- IF it silences family members who were abused by this hero before he died? Who should be protected -- the dead or the living? Can it be both?