Sunday, April 24, 2016


image via designspiration

When a colleague said with shock in her voice, “Prince is dead” my first reaction was nothing but an open mouthed silence. I was perplexed then a bit angry. It’s been such a year of loss of the kind of artists that lived in your heart and your head. And not just celebrities. Two friends recently lost parents. I guess I’ve reached “that” age. The age when basically the parents of you and your cohort are in their twilight years and a fall, a virus or any number of afflictions could easily take them. Then I thought I guess I’m also that age when the artists who would have affected me as a teen were approaching their twilight years too.

What is that age? A few weeks ago I tried to buy some replacement leads for a mechanical pencil in non-photo blue. I know it sounds anachronistic but it’s a useful sketching tool. You rough out work in non-reproducible colour, such as blue and work your final lines in a reproducible one (say pen or black pencil) so that when you photograph it or scan it, only the dark line prevails. Yet when I went to a nearby art supply store I was told that item had been discontinued. Am I so old that I’ve outlived a kind of pencil? Not just a kind of pencil but a whole process of working now deemed too mechanical and unused to be made anymore. Even my beloved art materials are dying.

“…do you realize that everyone you know one day will die?”
The New York Times ran an odd headline about “Music Fans are Getting Fed Up” - first David Bowie then Glenn Frey, and now Prince! As if someone controls which artistic luminary is taken from us. Firstly, I’m not sure I’d group Glenn Frey with Bowie and Prince but it undermines the point that it has been a terrible season of death. What about Motorhead’s front man Lemmy Kilmister, or influential architect Zaha Hadid or actress Doris Roberts (Ray’s mom on Everybody Loves Raymond)? The point is people die. There is no reason. To quote a song, do you realize that everyone you know one day will die? Death isn’t a possibility, it is a certainty. There may be a 20% chance of rain tomorrow, but there is a 100% chance I will die some day.

But Prince’s death was different. He really was too young to die particularly that he was known to be healthy, in fact famously fit. Then another death. This time a close friend of my brother killed in a car accident. This isn’t supposed to happen. It’s not supposed to be like that. But Tragedy doesn’t give a shit about how it’s supposed to be. Cancer, it turns out, is a whole lot less about lifestyle and whole lot more about shitty luck. Maybe our entire lives are far more about shitty luck than choices we make. I see it all the time. How is it possible that the obese and decrepit drunk, limping and falling down my street is still alive? He is chain smoking and slurping on soda whilst simultaneously belching and coughing but is still alive and kicking (I assume the random kick-walking is another fascinating malady). While this walking (barely walking) bag of poison, who has presumably brought some joy to his own family and friends, lurches onward, healthy people are being picked off by chance.
“…maybe Death has noticed me”
So why bother? Why eat your greens? Why have fibre with your breakfast? Tonight I’ll still brush my teeth, floss, take a fistful of vitamins and do my back stretches and wonder what is the point? Why try so hard? It occurs to me that I haven’t reached some magic age when I notice death more but maybe Death has noticed me and with every passing life, he is serving my papers, signed and notarized and my number may come up as soon as anyone else’s so I’d better be ready. People just didn’t start dying when I turned 45 because the truth is people die everyday. Some days more people die. Some days people you know die. Think about it. A certain number of people died the day that I was born but of all of those people I didn’t know any of them. Forty some years later, the same number of people have died today. The only difference is, I know a lot more people now than day one, so the likelihood of me knowing one of them, or knowing someone who knows them, is exponentially greater. Also, I’ve known them longer so my emotional investment is greater. Eventually I’ll be among that number. That day I will be just like the day I was born, utterly alone.



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