Spiritual Savvy of Michael J. Fox

Delorian from Back to the Future

Photo courtesy of DeLorean Motor Company

Former Teen Idol Inspires

I remember the first time I saw Back to the Future in a theater – the audience clapped loudly at the end of the show. The movie was such great fun. People don’t normally celebrate after a film.

Michael J. Fox, a young actor at the time, was brilliant in the part, and very funny. As I am sure you are aware, when he reached age 30, doctors diagnosed him as having Parkinson’s disease. That was over 20 years ago.

A year ago, I read an interview with Michael about his health, family and callings. This chat filled me with great admiration for him. I respected the qualities he displays, and his spiritual practice. I went away with three main points:

  • An appreciation of what his disease makes him deal with on a daily basis,
  • The spiritual approaches he incorporated into his life, and
  • A sense of his wife’s importance in his life.

As to what he deals with; his body is always moving. His shoulders move, hands tremble and knees swing back and forth. He sometimes wakes up with his feet shuffling. When he walks down a hallway with a friend, he may walk “herky-jerky,” and will warn his companion that he “might get an elbow in the face.”

Michael takes this with a sense of humor. He still plays golf, but says he “suffers more from comic indignity than anything else.” When he starts pouring from a box of cereal, he is not sure what’s going to happen. He says, “The next thing I know, I’m spraying All-Bran all over the kitchen.”

Michael’s Gift to Me

The biggest thing I took away from this interview, was his statement, “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” This impressed me; so I boiled it down into two statements:

  • Happiness grows with acceptance, and
  • Happiness decreases with expectations.

I wrote them at the top of a large white board we mounted in the kitchen. These statements have remained for a year, and are never erased. They give me something to ponder every morning, as I eat breakfast.

According to this interview, “acceptance” for Michael means having a positive outlook on life. He counts his blessings rather than dwells on the distressing physical and emotional aspects of his disease. He took years to get to that point. I say to myself, “If Michael can accept his condition and still keep his sense of humor, I can do this in spite of any problems I encounter.”

Bravery, Persistence and A Good Woman

Michael demonstrates a great willingness to forge ahead in spite of his difficulties. Although he backed off from his career for a while, he has come back. His online IMDb page has an impressive listing of acting credits, even since leaving the Spin City TV show.

For course, he has become well known for his work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. It has funded almost $325 million in studies. “The attention Michael has brought to Parkinson’s research has sparked a complete revolution,” according to the foundation’s executive officer. Michael has even testified before Congress supporting increases in research budgets for the National Institutes of Health, and other causes.

Michael and Tracy married 25 years ago. He says his disease has brought them closer. She helped him quit drinking which was his early approach to dealing with his medical issues. “The more problems you solve together and the more experiences and laughs you have, the tighter you get,” he states. He notes “my wife is great to me.”

So best wishes Michael, you are one of my spiritual teachers.


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