Editor’s Note: “Words that Never Die” is a weekly installment of compelling quotes from the world’s most influential people. This week, we highlight a speech from Muhammad Ali in 1977. He was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist.
When I retire from boxing, I really don't know. I wanna say something right here, this might make you all think. Life is real short, so you add up all your traveling, all your sleeping, your school, your entertainment, you probably been half your life doing nothing.
I am now 35 years old; 30 more years I'll be 65. We don't have no more influence, we can't do nothing much at 65, your wife will tell you that.
When you're 65, ain't too much more to do. Did you know I will be 65 in 30 years? In those 30 years, I have to sleep 9 years, I don't have 30 years of daylight, I have to travel back to America which takes 6-7 hours. With all my traveling, that will be probably 4 years of traveling in the next 30 years.
About 9 years of sleeping, television, movies, and about 3 years of entertainment. So, out of 30 years I might have about 16 years to be productive; so this is how we can all break down our individual lives. What I am going to do in the next 16 years, what is the best thing I can do?
Get ready to meet God. Going into real estate, going into business, teaching boxers, that won't get me to heaven. Now, let me ask this audience a question. How many believe there is a supreme being? How many believe there's a God?
How many believe there's some power that made the sun, the moon, the stars? How many believe that this stuff didn't just come out here? Somebody wiser than us made it. How many believe there's a God? How many believe there's not a God?
Alright, if I told you, you who don't believe in God, if I told you that this glass sprung into existence, would you believe it? That this glass made itself, no man made this glass, would you believe it? Would you believe if I just told you this thing made itself? No, no. You wouldn't believe it, right? If I told you this television station popped into existence, no man made it, you would say that Muhammad Ali is crazy.
Alright, well, this glass can't make itself. If I told you that the clothes you have on wove themselves, that nobody created them, those clothes made themselves, you wouldn't believe it. But if your clothes didn't make itself, if that glass couldn't make itself, if this building didn't make itself, then how did the moon get out there? How did the stars and Jupiter, Neptune and Mars, and the Sun get out there? How did all this come here if a wise planner didn't make it?
So what I'm saying is I believe we're going to be judged. Should a man like Hitler kill the Jews and get away with it? Somebody should punish him. Maybe he don't get it now, he get it when he die. In hell for eternity. So what I'm gonna do when I get out of boxing, is to get myself reading to meet God because ……………….it's a scary thing to think that I'm going to hell to burn eternally forever.
So what am I gonna do? The reason why I'm taking such a long time to answer your question is that I'm explaining what you asked in the question. You asked me a question; I can't just answer it like that. When I get out of boxing or when I'm through, I'm gonna do all I can to help people. Here's a poor man come all the way to America. There's a bunch of boys need some money and somebody is calling me to help them. God is watching me. God don't praise me because I beat Joe Frazier. God don't give nothing about Joe Frazier. God don't care nothing about England or America as far as we aware of. He wants to know how do we treat each other, how do we help each other.
So I'm going to dedicate my life to using my name and popularity to helping charities, helping people, uniting people…..we need somebody in the world to help us all make peace. So when I die, if there's a heaven, I want to see it.
The odds are everybody in this room, some of you gonna be dead 20 years from now, some of you gonna be dead 50 years from now. Some of you gonna be dead 30, some of you gonna be 60, 70 years from now. We all gonna die soon and if you live to be say 125 years old, which we don't do, we don't have but about 80 years on earth.
This is a test to see where we will spend our life, heaven or hell; this is not the life now. Your real self is inside you, because your body gets old. Some of you go to look at the mirror and you don't have teeth, your hair is leaving you, and your bodies are getting tired.
But your soul and your spirit never die, that's gonna live forever. So your body is just housing your soul and spirit. So God is testing us on how we treat each other and how we live to see where our real home will be in heaven. So this physical stuff don't last for so long. So my car, this building is gonna be here when the man who built is dead.
There have been many kings and queens of England, they all dead. After this one is gone another one comes. So we don't stay here; we're just trustees. We don't own anything. Even your children are not yours. If you think I'm lying, your wife is not yours. You don't own your children and you don't own your family.
So what am I saying? The most important thing is what's gonna happen when you die. Are you going to heaven or hell? And that's eternity! How long is eternity?? Let's imagine.
Take the Sahara Desert. There's a lot of sand on the Sahara Desert, right? Then imagine that one grain of sand represents 1000 years. And when you in hell burning, when you die and go to hell, you gonna burn forever and ever and ever. No end. How long is that?
To give you an idea of how long eternity is, take the Sahara Desert and I told you to wait 1000 years and every 1000 years I want you to pick up a grain of sand until the desert is empty. Ok, wait 1000 years--pick up a grain, wait another 1000 years before you get the next grain, keep that up until there's no more sand in the desert. I mean, America is not but 200 years old.
We got 800 more years before 1000 so just scares me to think that I'm gonna die one day and go to hell. …………..so what am I gonna do when I'm through fighting? I only have 16 years to be productive and get myself ready to meet God and go to the best place. Does that make sense?