There’s been a lot of talk about how 2016 is the worst year ever. I’m not about to argue that the deaths of 50 beautiful + inspiring souls has created a dampened spirit in the hearts of global networks. These individuals we look to for inspiration, and eagerly appreciate any newsworthy actions from high profile celebrity of great respect.
Is it really the worst year ever? We haven’t experienced a global war this year, nor have we seen great amount of disease. There have been unfortunate and unnecessary massacres all over the world, so yes, it has been filled with tragedy. Including that time Donald Trump stole the US Election….
However, these statements of “worst year ever”are not about the syrian refugee crisis or about climate change becoming a worsening problem. These are statements fuelled by a presumed loss of hope by the bringers of musical, artistic optimism meeting the end of a fruitful, wonderful life. We collectively mourn in status updates and meme-ingful displays on social media. However, this does not well reflect the affect such art has had on our living. I have chosen to show gratitude with each of these stars’ passing, as many others around the world have as well – in a burst of reliving their collective bodies of work. Celebrations of their living do more than bursts of mournful sorrow. Both are expected, but to summarize the sudden loss of our heroes in the statement of the ‘worst year ever’ while cursing the power 2016 has had is to discredit the opportunity we have had to indulge in these magnificent authors of our culture. Celebrity Deaths of 2016 (Summary)
To name a few ways from my own experience, I would not have seen Die Hard with the same interest or conviction (for the first time) had Alan Rickman not passed away in January, nor would i have conducted an interview with an Edmonton connection about the impact of David Bowie had his passing . I was reminded of the power and strength of Leonard Cohen’s beautiful poetry as I relistened to his most mournful classics next to strangefully hopeful ballads. Prince’s death came as a surprise, and because of social networking, I (like many others) learned more about his life than we ever knew because of his untimely death.
Leonard Cohen’s passing, on Remembrance Day of all days, hit me particularly hard, as I realized so many of his iconic words were in the soundtrack of my upbringing. Moreso, they were sung by a family friend who is already gone. I’d already lost my favourite baritone version of So Long, Marianne, before the original was taken by time. The magnificence of his poetry will always be on the ‘to read’ list because there’s always going to be something new to discover..
Most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away with a day of each other – epitomizing the heartbreak we are all feeling as a product of grief, especially as the year draws to a close. Star Wars defined the feminists, the fragile, the Force… In our growing culture of understanding instead of condemning difference, Carrie was a guiding light to help us be more real with ourselves in facing mental illness and addiction. As an icon she was revered but sought to be respected as an individual.
This is a theme which has been of great prominence in my personal appreciation of public figures. Until thorough examination of personal patterns, my default was to idolize and place people of high regard on pedestals, away from the unsavoury entrapments of humanity. But they are individuals facing health concerns and uncertainties in similar ways. Like our aging parents and grandparents, they too will face memory loss, poor health, and death. Psychological distress can happen to anyone, particularly those facing Life.
This year’s personal and public ripples of community have informed a change of heart – that our humanity is continually enlightened as we move beyond struggle. Art is the end of confusion and beginning of refocusing beyond pedestals. Our connection to the importance of an artwork means that the creator of the work is simultaneously more and less valuable. The potential for them to create more enhances their worth, but since the idea is released they do not need to be as present
Each one of these celeb deaths invited us to reflect on our connection to their work, to enjoy the company of this public identity once more as conscious enjoyment informs our appreciation. Yet, the irony of timeliness is funny, how the presence of their genius has been preserved in technologic time capsules – consecutive flat pieces of camera film or circles of plastic vinyl grooves allow our memory to rest in the peace they have left for us.
I think part of this anger and confusion that is projected through social media as many stars leave the earth in droves is a reminder that we have loved their work and never been able to tell them about it. So together, we find ways to honour the memories they have helped us create together – wthout them. It begins a new era of their fame – posthumous adoration is out of their control. In a way, it gives us more power to define their legacy once the work has reached completion.
As this ‘horrific’ year comes to a close we must remember that however 2017 comes to us, the loss of this aging. trailblazing generation is natural as time rolls on. The work they have produced has informed our growth and is not going anywhere so long as we continue to access it.
It is a blessing to know the world at the depth we are able, so, thank you 2016 for reminding us of all the inspiration which keeps this pale blue dot a beautiful place to live.
Going forward into 2017, the things that worry us have become the problems we can solve: displaced war refugees, unjust seizures of power under the guise of democracy, basic human rights for our neighbours identifying as something other than heteronormative, and ecological instability which will inform our activism.
Surprisingly, i’m not entering into 2017 blindly optimistic that it will reach some sort of normal. Because once this kind of shit starts, it often spirals out of control. Unless, as in the famous words of Dr. Seuss’s Lorax, someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s not gonna get better, it’s not.
So, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to care a whole awful lot about the things we CAN change. And let the stuff we can’t simply wash over us. Take it in, surf the wave, and breath in every new day without the weight of despair. Take care of yourself, and let others take care of their own self. Ask for help; offer help.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this year is that no one makes it out alive.And dwelling on nostalgic wishes will only keep us depressed. Whether it’s a race to the bottom or apologetic anxiety encouraging a clamour to the top, there’s still going to be someone who calls it soda when you call it pop.
Some advice, if you’ll take it? Calm down, wave au revoir to whatever disaster you may have caused in 2016, and remember to tell those whom you appreciate that they matter.
This has been the year to remember to let [her/him/they/them/it/us] into our hearts, to make a sad song just a little bit better, to sing the NANANANA’s just a little bit louder. This has been the year of embracing the strength of your vulnerability.
2016 has cracked but is not yet shattered, let the light pour in.
In memory of all those we have lost. In honour of all we have been given. Goodbye, 2016.
**header image: screenshot of Dan Mangan’s music video for Race To the Bottom, Youtube 2016.