Leo Messi and the meaning of life: A study into greatness

Leo Messi and the meaning of life: A study into greatness

Leo Messi has been wonderful to watch over the last decade or so, but what is most stunning about him is that he still does not cease to improve. Will there ever be an end to the Barcelona man’s sheer genius?

Here are a few words that often tend to not make any sense at all but are overly important in the grand cosmic scheme and the world we live in:

Life, consciousness and its very origin.
The nature of Quantum Physics.
Lionel Andres Messi.

One fine day, on a tiny ball of rock suspended in a sunbeam, large molecules of non-living compounds combined together and became a living thing instead. Over the many billions of years, it started producing more advanced living things of its kind made up of the same non-living molecules, grew limbs, crawled its way to the surface, started walking, hunting, talking and writing articles on footballing deities over the internet. We stopped being what and started becoming who instead.

If you hit a ball over a pond, it sails through the air to land on the other shore. If you drop a ball in a pond, waves ripple away in growing circles. Those waves eventually reach the other side. In both cases, something travels from one place to another. But the ball and the waves move differently. A ball doesn’t ripple or form peaks and valleys as it travels from one place to the next. Waves do. In the world of the tiniest, the quantum realm, the particles that make up the atoms that make up the compounds that make up you and me, do both. And what’s even more astonishing is that they somehow alter their own nature and make-up when you observe them, or try to.

On a sunny afternoon in the small town of Rosario, a tiny kid named after Lionel Richie kicked a ball for the first time and it changed the way  people thought about human potential and the meaning of greatness. You just couldn’t be that good and yet somehow, the journey of Lionel from a scrawny teenager with long hair to a bold, brazen tattooed gentleman sporting a beard made all of us question the very nature of our reality. So extraterrestrials existed and lived amongst us and played football on weekends and on Champions League nights.

“We’re talking about a being whose very existence challenges our own sense of priority in the universe. And you go back to Copernicus where he restored the sun in the center of the known universe, displacing Earth. And you get to Darwinian evolution and you find out we’re not special on this earth. We’re just one among other lifeforms. And now we learn that we’re not even special in the entire universe because there is Superman. There he is, an alien among us. We’re not alone.”

Messi has been a lesson in consistency and greatness. Image: Bleacher Report
Messi has been a lesson in consistency and greatness. Image: Bleacher Report

The statistics behind Messi are mind-numbing…

Since Lionel Messi embarked on his professional career 15 years ago, he has rendered sense and mathematical models obsolete. Take statistics, take the numbers. 600 goals for Barcelona in just 14 years, 91 goals in 365 days, 70 goal involvements this season in just 46 games, more goals against the top 6 English oppositions than any strike in the Premier League, more free-kick goals in the last few seasons than entire clubs put together.

Every graph, every bar plot and scattered chart he’s been put in, he is at the extreme top right corner defying both the X and Y axes parameters and on a collective, defying belief. And this isn’t even the best part about him.

For a man whose sporting career crunches mind-numbing numbers like a robot, it’s the part of him that’s human- the artist that wows us the most.

Sure, you could program artificial intelligence to play a symphony but could it improvise the second guitar solo of Comfortably Numb like David Gilmour did live at Pompeii in 2016?

Could it make Manuel Neuer, Iker Casillas, David de Gea, Jan Oblak, Allison Becker, Gianluigi Buffon, Edwin van der Sar look like children having a stroll about in the park?

Could it make world-class former players in Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker look like twitter fanboys and get them jumping, raving, dancing and obsessing?

Messi has scored 8 direct free-kicks this season, more than City, United and Liverpool combined.
Messi has scored 8 direct free-kicks this season, more than City, United and Liverpool combined.

Could it make professional footballers take jibes at Juventus’ number 7, the other superhuman to grace this era?

Could it make Madrid based newspapers that drove agendas for its arch nemeses call him a Pope?

Could it define the very meaning of artistic glory and life in general?

You know the answer…

Growing up watching Barcelona and Messi, I often got a lot of stick from my mother. She often ended up asking me when I was still in my early teens, ‘why does it matter so much? It is, after all, just a game.’

In a very public interview, Jim Carrey who fought clinical depression ended up speaking his mind. “This mattering is a human construct born out of a need, the same as that you need to have deities.” Before Liverpool took on Barcelona in the first leg, Jurgen Klopp suggested that he did not consider the Camp Nou to be a temple. And yet, when Messi did what he did last night and Martin Tyler ended up shouting, ‘’They’re worshipping him like a God and he is a God of the game. He is the God of the game.”

Klopp couldn’t help himself a cheeky smile after Messi punished him for blasphemy.

Only Messi could have scored from there. Only Messi. Image: Bleacher Report
Only Messi could have scored from there. Only Messi. Image: Bleacher Report

And the Internet broke.

As it always does. After Avengers Endgame and the Battle of Winterfell, the world found its new obsession, except this one wasn’t a work of fiction. This one was an alien who has been doing this for the last decade and more, so much so, that when he stumbles to live up to his otherworldly and ridiculous standards, he ends up finishing as the fifth best player in the world. On the surface, that might look like a disgrace, but if you look deep inside, it is actually a compliment and a testament to his exceptional consistency- Messi has normalized greatness.

Messi has broken science, hasn’t he?

It is the equivalent of Alber Einstein breaking the grounds of physics every year between the publishing of the paper on Special Relativity in 1905 and the publishing of General Relativity in 1915. On the off years he takes it easy, just lays back on his armchair in his study and Princeton and spends time with his family, people start forgetting that he’s the greatest thinker to ever walk the surface of the planet.

Speaking of physics, let’s talk about that free-kick.

Basic physics in high school has you thinking about forces and working with distance, speed and time. And yet when you look at the viral clip of Messi scoring last night: the power he generated with his ethereal left foot; the distance between the spot and the net of the goal; the spin that he put on the ball was like FIFA’s finesse shots brought to life, only much more extreme.

In a way, Messi might just be an anomaly, he does not understand physics so he goes and does whatever he likes. He toys with space and time like he was a being from a higher dimension, he is the ‘they’ that Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway talk about in Interstellar.

Messi celebrated winning his 8th La Liga title in 10 years with his kid. Image: F Edits
Messi celebrated winning his 8th La Liga title in 10 years with his kid. Image: F Edits

Back to meaning…

Philosophers have spent a lot of time talking about the meaning of life in grand words, a purpose that defines your existence. People often struggle and stumble to keep up with it. It means different things to different people. For Charles Bukowski, it meant getting drunk and punching in the guts with his words. For Van Gogh, it meant finding joy with brushstrokes. For Jimi Hendrix, it meant playing with the six strings of his Fender Stratocaster at Woodstock. For Leonardo da Vinci, it meant everything.

And yet, judging by the way people talk about Lionel, how they attach a certain pride in watching his divinity, how they obsess over him and his genius, how they remember the colour of the t-shirt they wore at Camp Nou in the game against Bayern Munich, how the Santiago Bernabeu looks petrified and judging by the way Pope Francis had to go out of his way and dismiss that he wasn’t a demi-God, maybe, just maybe, the purpose of life is watching Lionel Messi play football. The school of Zen and Buddhism considers staunch meditation and rigorous discipline as the means to attain Nirvana. They should’ve tried watching Lionel Messi’s left foot caressing and making love to a ball instead.

Watching Lionel Messi play is an exercise in self-transcendence, it is feeling small in the company of powers that are larger than life and yet, it is comforting and a source of pride because you can brag about it to your grandchildren by a camp-side bonfire 60 years down the line.

Watch him as much as possible now because your weekends might just become extremely boring and your reality devoid of magic, fantasy and wonder someday very soon.

Talk about him and the way he has changed and influenced your life and made you a happier and a better person. Sing his praises, chant his name because human history has never seen someone like him.

Worship him before he calls it quits and moves back to Rosario to witness sunsets on the horizon of a grateful Universe, a Universe he has bestowed with his indescribable greatness.

Strictly no spam mails !