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Friday, May 13, 2016

Death & Fame


Being deliberately out of touch with much that is trendy and fashionable in the world of 2016, I am not impressed with outpourings of grief each time a person who has accomplished something dies.  Did you know the person as more than a name in a newspaper or magazine or a reproduction on a television or cinema screen?  Did you have meaningful conversations with the person?  Did you have a meal, drinks, tea or coffee, laughter or tears with the person as the two of you discussed issues of mutual interest?  Was the person your teacher or mentor?   Did you exchange correspondence ( letters/emails) which was  personal rather than just professional?  Did you publish constructive criticism of the person's work?  If the person was a fellow writer, did you review the person's  book (s)  or an isolated work that gave you insights about genius, craft, wisdom or just plain common sense? Did you try to help that person get a job or a fellowship by writing recommendations?  Did you publish the person in a magazine or an anthology  that you edited?  Did you explain, first to yourself and then to the person, why her or his artistry or argumentation is more than a throwaway item in cultural, social, or intellectual histories?

If you can't say "yes" to most of these questions (and to others I've not itemized), I suspect your grief is not genuine.  I suspect you are an opportunist, lacking a judicious measure of respect or honesty or humanity.  I am so old-fashioned, old school, or downright antiquated in my navigation of feelings as to believe you should share the esteem you have for people when they can see, hear or read it.  In some instances the expression of regard is quite private and remains forever unknown by a public.  That's cool.  It is more important that the person knows where the regard is coming from.  After the person is dead, cremated or buried, your weeping or your wording of grief contributes nothing to the person's happiness or spiritual balance.  Your chatter  is an ephemeral gesture of  self-serving desire.  It is merely your ego calling  attention to itself. Publishing well-researched, thoughtful critical assessments of a dead person's achievements and legacy to humankind is quite a different matter.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.            May 13, 2016

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