Not just mine, but other people’s. And even people I don’t consider as heroes. My brother passed around on facebook a meme or two that expressed a certain wishfulness about David Bowie and Glenn Frey and a certain reality-tv clan, that perhaps their fates would be better switched. You know of what I speak, right?
I wouldn’t wish an untimely death on anyone, and in my work with funerals (seven so far this month) even a good death is not always a welcome event for those left behind. It may happen someone dies whom we’ve admired, usually from afar, we may well feel a sense of loss on par with a close friend. I remember playing all my Beatles albums on December 9th in 1980. But I didn’t light any candles. Even in the internet age, I don’t always catch the news in a timely way. When one of the guitarists I admired most passed away, it was months before I found out.
So far in 2016, a lot of mourning for artists of stage and screen passing on. I was not a David Bowie fan, but people I respect admired him. Rock music is just too big to love everything. My wife and daughter are bigger fans of Eagles than I, but when their concert dvd from Australia goes in the player at home, I do pull out my guitar and play along.
I remember this proverb from high school’s Latin II:
De mortuis nil nisi bonum.
Perhaps derived from my mother’s wide-ranging corollary:
If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, then don’t say anything.
When Father George Rutler suggests that Catholics have adopted “the diction of political correctness and it compromises the prophetic charism of the Church,” I think he overstates the case. Way overstates.
It strikes me that Fr Rutler has indulged a particularly Catholic brand of political correctness in his approach. It’s what I call the hermeneutic of subtraction. In part, it’s a pendulum swing against courtesy and politeness that indulges the inner grump. In some circles, it is just unsatisfactory to tout one’s own heroes and creeds. Too often it seems necessary to hack the legs out from under others, their mentors, and beliefs as well. This is not prophecy. Prophecy is a much rarer bird than most people think. Perhaps they are engaged more often than apostles, but they strike me as not nearly as numerous as teachers. No, not prophetic charism. Just bumpkin behavior.
Thinking about classical artists and composers from centuries past, they have it good. We’ve forgotten their sins, their indulgences, their petty squabbles with patrons, even church patrons. Nobody remembers many of their errors, subtle or gross. Their partners in misbehavior have vanished from the books as we elevate their music and writings and paintings and statues to fond and untroubling decorations in our modern lives.
In the modern culture, people are often startled at expressions of grief and sadness. That’s not how life is portrayed in advertisements, usually. A person crying in a public place, alone, is likely to get a wide berth and a few curious stares from passersby. Maybe in groups, people feel more at ease lighting candles in the wind and dropping flowers to wilt in remembrance.
My sense is to give such persons a dollop of respect. It might seem that my possible disagreement with their heroes would lead me to be “prophetic.” But that would just be oafish behavior on my part.