John wrote a little post yesterday about which actors the world would be crushed to see kick the bucket before their time. We got several responses ranging from positive to pissed about whom we left off the list to affronted that we'd even bother shedding a tear for people we've never met in real life (who probably ruined their privileged lives anyway with drug and alcohol abuse, like regular folk don't do the same thing every day, but with less publicity).
Death is an interesting topic. It's a tough one to talk about, and it's something we shy away from. But we've all experienced it. We all will experience it. There's no escape. And just like the wars over what makes a mom a good mom, we fight over what's the right way to mourn and when it's okay to feel sad and whom we can feel bad about losing.
When it comes down to it, the whole mourning process is a selfish thing. I don't mean that in a negative way. I mean when someone dies, whether it's your dog or your best friend or your favorite baseball player from when you were growing up, you feel something and you have to process those feelings. Your reaction to the death is your reaction to the death, and we need to stop labeling those reactions as right or wrong. Maybe you're genuinely sad for the person who died and for the family, but you're also sad about what this death means to you, you're sad about what you lost, what you'll miss, whether it be the guy you saw regularly at Starbucks or the guy who kicked you in the gut emotionally with every performance he put in on screen.
The whole city of Chicago was devastated when Walter Payton died. Did those of us who did not know him feel the loss in the same way that his family and friends did? Of course not. Were we sad that someone so young, with seemingly so much life ahead of him, left us too soon? Definitely. Did it make us remember how strong and talented he was? For sure. Did it make us wistful that we'd never see what Sweetness was capable of in his twilight years, that we'd never know if he had it in him to coach or manage a team to a decade full of Super Bowls? Yeah.
Whatever your bag, if you're into movies or art or literature or sports or knitting, there are people you follow, people you look up to. Sure, they might have flaws. They might not make the best choices. They might be suffering from addiction or mental illness. They might just be kind of a dick. (Just like a lot of people you know personally and love anyway.) But they did something to make you take notice, to make you buy tickets to their games or concerts, to make you buy their books or movies. And when you lose one of those people, whether or not you knew them personally, it means something. It affects you.
For me, it's all about the loss of promise. The Philip Seymour Hoffman death hit me like a sledgehammer, especially when I started combing through his IMDB page and listing my favorite performances. The guy was a utility player. He made movies better just by virtue of being in them. He had received multiple Oscar nominations and was due more. Now we'll never get to see what kind of legend he could've become. And regardless of whether or not I knew him personally, whether or not he had a hand in his own demise, that makes me sad. Not "ruin my own life" sad or "man, this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me" sad, but still sad.
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