Monday, July 01, 2013

Who Is Worthy of Your Tears?

"Sometimes you think things are going in one direction 
and then they don't." -Me

A couple of weeks ago I saw the double documentary about Billy Joel and the closing of Shea Stadium. Billy Joel live at Shea Stadium. A nostalgic presentation both of the singer's life and the history of Shea. The show ends with an appearance of Sir Paul McCartney and a rendition of Let It Be to close the show.

In the aftermath/afterglow of the performance I was pondering the connection of my generation to the Beatles and to rock & roll in general. It struck me that the death of Sir Paul would affect me. Which got me to thinking about who represented our generation, who iconically stood out and would saddened me when they are gone. My answer is Paul McCartney.

I couldn't stop there, not only were there others on my short list: Woody Allen, the Dali Lama, George McGovern; but being an inveterate researcher I just had to ask others my question. I emailed 44 members of my generation and briefly outlined my question, promised if I quoted them to do it anonymously; ending with: 

"So - who is the one singular person who will bring you to tears of loss or joy when they are gone?" I exempted family members and friends.

I must admit I was completely unprepared for the chord I struck. Hint - don't ask people about death, loss and grief unless you are prepared to deal with a tsunami of emotions. Here are just some of the responses I received:

"I've lost so many already. Christopher Hitchens, Molly Ivins, etc. But I know I will cry for Barney Frank when he dies. I didn't always agree with him. But when he dies, one of the last politicians to actually give a fuck about the people he represented will be gone."

Steven Martin and Woody Allen: "Both incredibly gifted people who shared their talents with us …blockbuster comedians, actors, accomplished authors and film directors,  intellectuals, musicians…true Renaissance men. Felt the same way over a decade ago when the other “Steve” and “Allen” combo died….Steve Allen."

"To be honest, I can't think of anyone 'iconic' that I would shed actual tears for, tears are reserved for loved ones in my world." *This was the most common feedback I received, nearly a third of those I asked expressed some form of this response.

Doyle Brunson: "The more I learn about him the more I am in awe of the man. This has very little to do with poker but a lot to do with his class and life experiences."

David Robinson - former NBA star with the San Antonio Spurs.

"Professor Walter Primeaux, professor emertius at University of Illinois,  an old Texas kinda guy, home spun and adept at making me understand how to get along with diverse cultures and people, and to realize things are not: 'Right or wrong just different.'"

"The Dalai Lama and Willie Nelson - the latter for his sense of humor. And the later, not the earlier, Leonard CohenNelson Rolihlahla Mandela for sure, who carried on the Gandhi/King tradition."

"A couple of years ago this would have been easy: Christopher Hitchens."

"The Canadian actor Donald Sutherland. I knew nothing of him when, in the 60's, I wandered into a local movie house with a pal, and saw a British horror film in which he played a character who is royally and totally screwed over." [the remainder of this tribute has been kept private for the benefit of the weak of mind and the lame of thought]

Noam Chomsky: "I will cry when he dies. He is 80 and, although I never agreed with is linguistics and a generation of neuroscience research, I think he has made a major contribution as a public intellectual in challenging prevailing hegemonic 'truths' in political economic terms."

Joanna Macy - another controversial selection from the academic world.

"No person would affect me in such a way."

"I pick President Obama because he gives me hope." One of three votes for Barack not meeting his maker.

"Michael Ovitz is the first one that came to mind. I admire how far he rose before greed brought him down."

"James Levine (famous in the music world, currently the main conductor at the NY Met Opera), having watched him practically his entire career. He is a true 'bubbie' who happens to be a musical genius."  

"The only people who would cause great sorrow would be family or close friends.  There are movie stars and musicians I would feel sad about and miss, but it wouldn't be great sorrow."

"I would pick Rachel Maddow for the fact that in an age when both the Right and Left wield Battle-axes and War-hammers in the political sphere, Rachel is often able to smash her opponents’ viewpoints with a deftly applied Bataka-bat. She is able to demolish her opponents without ever coming across as vicious. Rachel is magical in that way, which shouldn’t be a surprise as she looks suspiciously like Harry Potter. I would sorely miss her style of political combat."

"The first person who came to mind was Paul McCartney – even more than John. Not because I particularly identify with or look up to him, but because of what he represents or symbolizes to me and its importance in my life. I actually got a bit verklempt thinking about it. I would definitely be very sad to see him go." (I have always shared a musical affinity with this friend)

Stephen King:  "Some of his material so resonates with me and so engulfs me that I will be saddened when faced with the reality that this author will be producing no more works."

"A tie between Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking." 

I would add that the recent passing of Jonathan Winters was mentioned by several including myself. Finally, yes there were several responses too heart wrenching to share.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I would say Bill Clinton. Warts and all, he was an icon of our generation. I don't know that I would cry, but his passing would mean something, would leave a void.