A Lesson on Beliefs from Roy Horn (of Seigfried and Roy)

I was watching the 20/20 special on Seigfried and Roy out of curiosity – I had always heard that they got plastic surgery to look like the tigers they worked with, and I wanted to take a good look for myself.  Just a few minutes into their story, I was engrossed enough to have forgotten all about eye lifts.Photo by Kablis

It was painful to watch Roy, a man who had jumped around with tigers and hoops of fire for a living, struggle to speak.  He walked with such an unsteady gait that I found myself half-squinting, so I wouldn’t have to see if he slipped.  I think by now, we all have heard of the tiger attack that left him nearly dead five years ago, and changed his life forever.   I gotta say, if my business partner (human or feline) of 20+ years mauled me right before the end of work day, I’d have some anger issues.  I am not sure I’d ever be able to forgive the beast.

Yet, it is clear from watching Roy in the interview that he holds no resentment whatsoever towards the tiger.  In fact, he maintains that the tiger was not attacking him, but rather trying to save him.  He believes that he suffered a stroke on stage, slumped to the ground,  and that the tiger just lifted him by the scruff of the neck, like she would a cub, and carried him to safety.  Doctors can’t disprove this theory – Roy did suffer a stroke, but they’ve always assumed it was after the massive blood loss from the attack.  There’s no way for them to be sure when it happened. Does it even matter what the truth is?

Not to Roy.  He has  chosen to believe an explanation that is (given we can’t actually ask the tiger its intentions) just as true as any other.  It leaves me wondering about how this may have helped his healing.  Could he have defied first death (he died on the operating table) and then the odds of living paralyzed if he had the weight of anger and resentment keeping him down?  His will and perseverance were uplifting.  His belief in the tiger’s goodwill, despite seeming slightly delusional at first, inspired me to question some of the assumptions I make about why events unfold as they do.

Bad things don’t happen.  Things happen.  Whether we ascribe goodness or badness to them is of our own choosing.

Today, I am grateful for the courage embodied by people, like Roy, who over come setbacks with such grace and dignity.  That and my digitial tv converter box which as doubled my channel selection and sharpened my picture enough to keep me watching way too much tv!

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