One of the greatest storytellers of our age has left us. It’s amazing to think that our time basking in the rays of greatness has left us, but that’s wrong; that’s incorrect; that’s a disservice.
It’s also more complicated than that.
No one would blame you for saying that the world is a little bit darker today without someone once they’ve left us. When you think about the magnitude of character, the body of work, the incredible talent that had been offered to the world and then wrenched so violently and suddenly from it, yeah, there’s a gaping hole, a massive wound. The world is in fact darker as a result of their departure.
But that is not to say there is no sun. That is not to say that all light has vanished, and we are plunged into eternal night. There is the point where we do a disservice.
Anthony Bourdain was found dead Friday of an apparent suicide. I felt a deep sadness when I was told of it. Then I felt anger. Then I felt selfish. Why? Fuck, this is complicated. It leads down so many roads. What is selfish, and what is truly selfless, and is there any crossover that could possibly be allowed? I can think of no better word than “complicated.”
So, I want to explore this for a moment. A person comes into the world and gives freely of themselves that which they can offer, whatever their talents may be. Anthony evolved from a chef to a conduit for the world. His writing was amazing. He was a complex man, plagued by demons all his life, but through his battles with them, he found tranquility and he found that this world is remarkable. He gave us his incredible viewpoints through prose I can only describe as vivid, poetic, beautiful.
But through his passing, we are robbed of any more of his thoughts. We are no longer able to understand the world through his lens. Is it bad to feel selfish for that? I’m instantly now drawn to one of my other favorite writers, who also took his own life: Ernest Hemingway. Another complex man (though, arguably, a man of less redeeming qualities than Anthony), when I think of him, I don’t feel angry for him taking himself from us early. I accept his body of work as complete, because that’s the only way I’ve known it.
Is that it though? Is that why this bothers me? I knew Anthony as a living person but never knew Ernest as one? Why should such a thing matter? A man is a man, and he is nothing more. We should be lucky to have him and what he offers us, right?
Like I said, it’s complicated. There is no cut-and-dry. We spend our time in the sun, and we must use that time wisely. I believe we should use that time wondering and trying to understand what makes it so bright and why it makes us feel so warm.
Basically, I think the lives of others, like Anthony’s, boils down to this: what do you take away from their life, their opinions?
I was watching CNN’s remembrance special, and Don Lemon hit on a number of fantastic viewpoints. (Really, this is the importance of multiple opinions on any given subject; you just might find something you missed.) “It came to him naturally. He was just curious. Isn’t that what makes a good journalist?” That’s when I understood what I would take away from Anthony’s tragedy: his curiosity.
Working where I do, I am in a remarkable, fortunate position to learn so much about the world by encountering so many different kinds of people coming together to achieve the same goal of flight. But I don’t ask enough questions. I’m a writer who fails at learning, and that is far too remarkable in the wrong direction. We should be inquisitive about our world, and what makes are world are its inhabitants. They all have a self, and they all have a story.
Why don’t I ask more about those stories?
If I take nothing else away from Anthony’s life, it’s this: How to write with emotion and sense of scene and how to explore the world. Fuck, this hurts so much, but if I learn nothing, if I utilize nothing, if I squander all his expertise, then his loss is truly a void: Empty space. If we take nothing from one another, we stagnate, and they are invalidated, which is such a sad, horrible existence. It does a disservice to everyone.
Curiosity is what I will take from Anthony’s wonderful life. That is how I will choose to honor him. What do you do to honor a life cut short?
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