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?
2 thoughts on ““When gods Die…””
As always, beautifully written!
To quote another of our favorites, “To make sure you don’t get out of your crib we’ve placed a hundred invisible black poisonous snakes outside your crib and if you set one toe out of your crib they will bite you, you’ll swell up and be dead till morning.”
I fondly recall reciting those routines during some of the most stressful times that our then 20 year old selves had seen and they always managed to bring smiles to our faces and lighten the mood. It is amazing that now, 20 years later, those same lines can bring about entirely different and less pleasant emotions. It further amazes me that someone who did so much to champion the rights of blacks in Hollywood – not long before all of this I read an article about his insistence on using only black stunt men during “I Spy” when Hollywood’s M.O. was to “paint brown” white stunt actors – did so much to harm another group in Hollywood, female actresses. The two men, the one I knew – strike that – thought I knew in my 20s and the one that now stands before us simply cannot co-exist.
I guess sometimes what you “knew” in your youth may not be as it seemed. I know since reading these recent accounts I have wanted to smear jello on the floor and set the sofa on fire to protect myself from watching someone who meant so much to me as a child crumble in such a spectacular way… If only that worked.
While I can no longer associate these recordings with the hero I knew as a child, if I am honest, that hero was replaced with another long ago. That new hero – the same person I recited these lines with decades ago; that person who regardless of the miles between us or the time that has passed since we last saw each other can return me to my youth with the power of his pen; that person who I can always count on to have intelligent discussions about terrible realities; that person who has been there through the deaths of friends and the stresses of life as well as the joys of marriage and the happiness of friendship – is and always will be the person I am honored to call one of my best friends.
I personally take comfort in the fact that i can continue listening to these recordings with happiness, although not because I continue to admire the man who recorded them. Instead they continue to bring a smile to my face because they remind me of you and some of the best times of my life. In short, sing it with me, ICE CREAM, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE ICE CREAM!”
Dude. You got me tearing up over the BBQ grill. Thanks, brother. I am proud to have shared many memories with you through the good and the tough times. We will always have that and no one can rob us of that. Love you, man!