What Today Brings
“All we demanded was our right to twinkle.” Marilyn Monroe
Throughout history there are those we have placed on a pedestal, those we have bestowed super human powers and held them accountable. We deemed Elvis the king of music, Marilyn the epitome of sexuality and Oscar Wilde the very definition of wit. Why has such a crown historically been so heavy as to swallow the recipient whole?
Our icons, legends and idols are a source of entertainment for us as we vicariously and insatiably devour the tiniest of details about their lives and deaths. We adore Marilyn Monroe for her effervescent spirit, her vulnerability and overt willingness to appear born for public consumption. During the height of her fame she was the envy of most every woman and the fantasy of most every man. Why then did she die alone in a sparse room with a broken heart and a belly full of Champagne and pills? Why did Elvis, “The King,” also die alone with a broken heart and a belly full of pills? Why did Oscar Wilde die exiled in a Paris hotel room, penniless and broken- hearted? It appears that being an icon, an idol, a legend, is not such a great deal after all.
Every culture has its idols, from the Ancient Egyptians to the early American Indians, that image most likely to pop up in the minds of foreigners when referring to a particular society, which for better or worse defines their philosophy. Unfortunately, in Western civilization, we have a nasty habit of crucifying out idols, bestowing upon them superhuman powers, treating them like some sort of God and then watching in awe as they fall from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Last night I watched an all-star tribute to Elvis. They had the stage set to emulate his 1968 concert and everyone who is anyone in February 2019 was there to sing one of his songs. Across the screen were images of Elvis when he was a beautiful, talented, young man so full of life and so excited to share what was inside him with everyone willing to watch and listen. He was extraordinary; some people are. Some people are worthy of praise and celebration, but not at the expense of granting them the basic and human nurturing we all require to be happy and healthy. “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering,” Theodore Roosevelt said. Did he mean to imply they are mutually exclusive? Did he believe you have to have a troubled life to be remembered and revered? I should hope not. While that does seem the case in most cases, I hope we are growing more empathetic and less cannibalistic. I hope we are becoming wise enough to recognize the gift of the light before us without destroying it for being so bright. There will never be another Elvis, another Marilyn, another James Dean or Oscar Wilde, but there will be others whose cups effortlessly runneth over with talent, originality and sparkle. Why don’t we help them along next time, take pleasure in appreciating what they brought us even when they have given all they have to give and are ready to rest. Why don’t we gather around such remarkable passersby, not only when we are hungry for them, but also when we are full.