On The Death of Celebrities Important to Us

Their Deaths Equate to A Partial Death of Our Living Culture.

It feels like a part of us has died, when honored celebrities we loved have died, because we identify with that culture and with they who helped define it. As we feel a part of our culture — not mere observers of it, this means we feel a part of ourselves has died.

In our celebration of celebrities is an important part of self: we are proud to appreciate those who reflect our values. Thus these icons had become a part of us which allows us to relate with and connect and commune with others on levels of agreement and in admiration that define us — even if only in our minds. Where else do we reside, if not in our minds and cultures?

I, myself, have grown fond of saying (in a tongue and cheek way) that I don’t fully trust people who don’t like Monty Python.

Who among us has not approved (or disapproved) of others based on their political choices? Haven’t you heard people say they are more terrified of Trump supporters than of Trump?

Likewise, someone who routes for Luke Skywalker (over Darth Vader), appreciates the struggle of Edward Snowden (over that of the Justice Department), or revels in the exploits of Neil Armstrong (when he cheats death and restores our faith in patriotic endurance) becomes someone in our mind — like Bernie Sanders or Elizibeth Warren — whom we could pick up a torch for — or trust. We partially base friendships on these affinities (of course in addition to how potential friends treat us). It says something about the world they want — and how we would fare in it. Celebrities help define this — and it adds to our sense of security — real or imagined.

I am moved to comment on this, because a very well-meaning and intelligent friend (fast becoming something of a celebrity, herself) wrote this morning about the steady, heavy mourning going on these days — for the celebrities who have died this year (the feelings for which are, of course, compounded by this “triumph of evil over good” sentiment that many of us feel, due to the political situation which hangs over us like a death star).

She pointed out that all this going on about celebrities whom we don’t know can actually hurt the feelings of those of us who have lost people actually close to us. It is a very special and generous sentiment, and I appreciate it, however:

As encouraged as I am by her sensitivity and concern for others (and I would say that maybe losing an icon — or ten — from one’s extended world is… yes — not as painful, per se, as losing a direct family member or intimate friend) — I feel the death of heroes is a somewhat traumatizing event on a significant cognitive and visceral level — because it shows us how old we are getting… and how we have to adjust to a new world… that maybe we don’t relate to as readily.

I know that the deaths of Neil Armstrong, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn… and then the scare we had with Buzz — as well as the deaths of David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Leonard Nimoy and Carrie Fisher meant something deeply personal to me — insofar as the world I was a part of (and could have shared with a future paramour — or with young people) has become a little less populated and real. And this means I am more alone, insofar as “heroes” in my midst have disappeared.

You’ll understand more intimately, perhaps, when some of those icons important to your worldview (besides the ones that I’ve mentioned — maybe ones I don’t really know much of?) disappear….

Thanks for coming. What do you think?

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