Saturday, June 09, 2018

a post on the recently deceased Bourdain has me wondering about some of the axioms that get out on the net

Anthony Bourdain has died and because it is a fact of life in the age of the internet that celebrity deaths are occasions for cultural commentary we get cultural commentary.  In this most recent case there's a rumination at Mbird.  In the same sense that I don't really think we can all describe ourselves as sad Ben Affleck; I don't believe that it's actually the case that if we don't appreciate the art of monsters we'll have no art left and have written about that at some length; I also don't really agree with the following axiom.

We all long for fame on some level or another. Maybe we won’t be Anthony Bourdain. Perhaps we would really love to be the head of a company. Or the head pastor of our church. Or have more followers on social media. Or be the PTA president. [emphasis added] But fame does not do what it promises. Because fame has an unquenchable desire to be fed. It solves none of life’s problems. Fame will take your mental illness, insecurities, and addictions and scare the hell out of you. Because now, instead of just you carrying the burden of yourself, it is entirely possible that the whole world will find out your deepest, darkest secrets. I cannot imagine the stress.
In this way, suicide makes an odd kind of sense. It is that exposure of all our brokenness to the world. It is this way of saying, “I can’t hold it all together. I give up completely. And I will do it in front of all you who have asked far too much of me.” Certainly, not every famous person will die by suicide. But I believe we would be shocked to know how many of them have considered it. 
In truth, we were not made for fame. Being famous ultimately means being responsible for other people’s lives. It means taking on the pressures of the world. And it means being loved by people who do not really love you. Because they do not really know you. And this is the worst kind of love to be offered.

It's not really clear to me that we do all long for fame on some level or another or what is meant by that declared longing.  There may be a distinction between fame for one thing and fame for another, for instance.  Someone may be famous for his or her work but not famous in other respects.  Pierre Boulez was notorious within the classical world but he said he wanted to live the kind of life where there couldn't be an interesting biography written about him, or so I read or heard somewhere.  Hindemith was reticent about personal life details in favor of letting the music he wrote speak (or not) for itself.

So it's possible that there's a uniquely American sensibility about what "fame" is supposed to be and why "we" might all long for it. 

I'm also not sure about the suicide as public service announcement of "I don't have it together" claim.  People who kill themselves may despair of life more than they fear death.  In a culture in which individual autonomy largely seems to be prized more than personal or familial honor suicide may not mean "here" what it has meant in other cultural contexts. 

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