Friday, February 17, 2012

Honour and Fame

This week, the music world and millions of fans were dismayed (myself among them) at the untimely death of the Queen of Pop, Whitney Houston.  I've always loved her voice - one of my favorite singers of all time - and her death hit me hard. For a few days running I watched a show I usually detest (E-Talk) to hear news of how and why it happened.  

In one interview with David Foster, he revealed that there wasn't a moment that went by when someone, somewhere didn't want something from Ms. Houston. Fame had placed a burden on her that no human was meant to carry, and she apparently tried to escape from it in drugs ... most recently prescription drugs.  

I blame our society's tendency to put people up on pedestals and let individuals within that society want to own a little piece of someone famous.  We do it with celebrities of all stripes - from sports heroes to singers to the royal family.  We forget that they are real people.  Real people whose noses run sometimes, who sometimes aren't at their best, who occasionally do stupid things, and who deserve to have a little privacy.  (By the way, the fact that Ms. Houston's family has requested a private ceremony by invitation only is a testament to that need - that incredible need for dignity, for respect, for decency, and [for once in her public life] privacy.  I applaud them for it.)  

Fans worldwide are grieving.  

But after all, Whitney Houston was someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's niece, someone's mother, someone's wife ... and more, so much more than her fans can comprehend.  May she rest in peace.  May her family find solace. 

But her death - at the young age of 48 - has sparked some comments on the incongruity of the death of a celebrity versus the sacrifice of someone who (aside from family and friends) is virtually unknown, but who has perhaps given his or her life to save another's.  Or like the guy who goes to a job he hates every day, and in so doing dies just a little more every moment of every day ... just to put food on the table for his family.  Or people like our service men and women who brave untold dangers and see unthinkable sights in the line of military duty in foreign lands.  

Whose life has more merit?  Whose death is more tragic? whose sacrifice is greater? that which relinquishes privacy and possibly health for a life of fame ... or that which gives up family and home for the grueling and dangerous task of protecting people who may not want to be protected? or that which sacrifices stardust-filled dreams to meet the needs of those he or she loves?  these are questions that cannot be answered ... but they make us think.  

Perhaps those self-sacrificing heroes are all the more honourable because they are unsung.  Perhaps if their accomplishments were to be noised abroad, they might forget their unique calling and fall into the Venus Flytrap of fame. We need them to keep on with their mission.  That guy's kids still need their dad to keep them from going hungry.  And they are no less heroes ... than the person whose face (and life in every possible unflattering detail) is plastered across every newspaper in the country - or the world.

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