Sports Illustrated recently published an interview with Mike Tyson, who has turned his life around, found Allah, and living healthily. After running through women, exotic animals, vast sums of money, and the occasional cartilage snack, Tyson reminisced of his love of rehab:

I was addicted to rehab. I was like the poster boy, because I would go to like five meetings a day. You were only required to go to one. I would go to five, because I’m an addictive freak. I love hanging out, the camaraderie. It’s just awesome! But you know what people want, too? [Tyson leans in closer, his voice suddenly quieter.] This is what I realized, bro: It gives people family. A way of starting over. [In rehab] we start a new life with new family members. And all they gotta do to stay in this family is not get high, and you gotta try really hard. And then if you do get high? “We got your back.” That’s what I like.

I find this fascinating. Tyson recognizes what, deep down, I believe we all recognize and what we feel deep in our bones: the need for supportive community. The existence of gangs, softball leagues, social clubs, and some organized religion reflect this need. I find that even in my solitary times, when I’m not especially interested in deep communication with people, I still want to be around others and give and receive support. This short quote helped me appreciate those who do not have that in their biological family and have to initially seek it elsewhere.

I’m sorry that, for whatever reason (I’m sure there are several), Mr. Tyson had to find it in rehab groups.

Our churches and families and other social structures need to fill this need. Obviously it can’t be forced, but there is a definite need to create a culture of standards with support and love. I also wonder about the nature of family in an increasingly digital age, as more interaction moves to non-physical forms. These “shallow communities” (to quote an Os Guinness phrase) are no substitute for meaningful and transformative interaction. Tyson also credits his wife with his turn-around, confirming the value of a supportive marriage.

My other surprise from the short interview? Tyson’s love of ancient historical figures:

I like classical biographies. Hannibal was an awesome person. Clovis was pretty awesome, the Franks and stuff. The Khans: Genghis and his grandsons. Listen, this is pretty interesting, with this Clovis guy. Clovis was king at 15. He gets to be king at 15 with some of his father’s ragtag army. Still, he would conquer people and take all their lands. He was still an evil guy. His bloodline became kings of different countries.

Tyson in his prime would have been a great Spartan general…