There’s a routine that used to be pretty funny about Noah and his interaction with the Lord. I’ve tweaked part of that routine to show how I feel about recent “entertainment” events…
This is the Lord. And I have a question for you.
I’m drowning in sorrow, disappointment. Shame. Anger.
There’s this funny fella by the name of – well you know his name. Everyone knows his name. Years ago if people asked who he was they would say he was a comedian, or a TV star, or just a funny man. I watched his shows, his comedy routines, I even
had have his records. My students even said that I was kind of funny like him- that I reminded them of him. I took it as a compliment. Then.
He made me laugh. He made me think. Sometimes his routines (even though I had heard them thousands of times) muted some of the pain and the hurt. One of my best friends and I would recite lines, text pieces of his standup at random times and it would always elicit a smile. Always.
I had hoped to meet him in person one day and tell him what his humor had done for me, how laughter does in fact heal wounds, how I enjoyed sharing his talent, his words, him with my students.
And then I heard about the first woman coming forward. Followed by another. And another. And another. And then there was the deposition that revealed a side I didn’t want to believe existed. And then a cover revealing 35 women who had come forward. 35.
And suddenly the laughter was gone.
The laughter was replaced with sorrow. First for the women and what they have had to live with all these years. The public scorn some of them have individually gone through when they came forward. The disbelief and minimization of their experience. Their worth. Their intentions.
Selfishly the laughter was also replaced with anger and hurt for my younger self who first saw him and wanted to emulate him. The kid who wanted to believe him and believe in him.
The laughter was also replaced with shame.
There’s a book called The Wednesday Wars (amazing book if you haven’t read it), and in it the protagonist, 7th grader Holling Hoodhood, has an unfortunate encounter with his childhood hero, Mickey Mantle. Granted the story is fiction, but the words still ring true,
When gods die, they die hard. It’s not like they fade away, or grow old, or fall asleep. They die in fire and pain, and when they come out of you, they leave your guts burned. It hurts more than anything you can talk about. And maybe worst of all is, you’re not sure if there will ever be another god to fill their place. Or if you’d ever want another god to fill their place. You don’t want the fire to go out inside you twice.
Gary D. Schmidt, The Wednesday Wars
I won’t say that the comedian was a god to me, but he was a hero. A role model. A fictional father figure. And to say that my guts burned is an understatement.
But I should have learned my lesson long ago. There was the baseball player that I loved and refused to believe he took steroids – he was just naturally strong through hard work. The cyclist my sister loved that wore a yellow jersey 7 times. The wrestler that I grew up watching who encouraged me to “Say my prayers, do my training, and take my vitamins. Brother.” That wrestler apparently never liked people my shade of brown but gladly took my parents’ money for his merchandise.
And I could go on and on.
There was that famous basketball player who warned us that athletes weren’t role models. I think he was right, but I think a truer statement would have replaced “athletes” with the word “celebrities”.
At some point, you will find yourself drowning in disappointment with imperfect people who were never meant to be “gods” in the first place – no matter how much we tried to build them up and believe in them. You can search day and night and find yourself flailing in the water with nothing to grasp.
How long can you tread water?