I will be honest, I am not one that is much moved by the death of celebrities. And, no, it is not for a general lack of sympathy or empathy. It is possibly because not many celebrities spark an interest in my adult self (my younger self was a whole different era!) that goes beyond the portayals in their music or movies or beyond their performance on the field or court. It also does not help that I do not care much for appearances – appearing to be up-to-date, or trendy, or more knowledgeable than I actually am; appearing to be sports-savvy and whatnot. I am unfortunately – ‘unfortunately’ being used here because I live in today’s world – a simple human with simple aspirations, simple interests and simple pleasures.
In spite of all of the self-centric display above, I will say that two celebrity deaths did in fact leave me quite sad, the kind of sadness you feel when you lose someone actually dear to you. And a third celebrity death that I got to find out about this morning has left me with a feeling I am yet to qualify (Is it admiration or respect? I am yet to determine).
The first celebrity death was the death of Amy Winehouse, a Soul/Jazz artiste and singer-songwriter. I was saddened by it. I have been and may always be a lover of storytelling. That is the very love upon which this project – this blog – is being embarked on. And so I love artistes that are actual singer-songwriters, because they are telling their stories or the stories in the world around them. I am also a fan of sad-sounding songs, but that’s by the way. So, yeah, I loved Amy Winehouse in that sense. She told her story in haunting, sad lyrics. She told her story in her way and let people who would listen see the dangers of making some of the choices that she had made. My favourite songs from Amy are “Back to Black” and “Tears Dry on Their Own”.
The second celebrity death was the death of Chester Bennington, the lead vocalist of the rock band, Linkin Park. Again, like Amy, he told his story and brought a message, some value, to the lives of those who would listen and take away positives. My favourite songs from the band are “What I’ve Done” and “Leave Out All The Rest”.
All of the above brings me to the third death – the inspiration for this piece – the death of Chadwick Boseman, the lead actor in the movie, “Black Panther”. To be honest, when I watched Black Panther in 2018, I was left with the feeling that the movie was over-hyped. And, yes, to be honest, I felt and still feel that the movie was pandering to – and profiting from – the sentiments of and for the black American and black African communities. That was about it for me with respect to Chadwick: I had no interest in his affairs beyond the art/work that he put out. So, you may be able to imagine the admiration or respect that I am feeling when it is being put out there that he had been dealing with a form of cancer since 2016. Don’t get me wrong, I have no altruistic illusions about him. What inspires admiration or respect for me is that: he went about his art/work smiling and laughing in spite of the significant uncertainty in his future; through his art/work he brought smiles and laughter – and maybe inspiration – to the world he lived in, and did so smiling and laughing in spite of the significant uncertainty in his future. Simply put – because, as you will probably discover about me from what I write, I like to bring everything down to the ‘actual value’ question – he brought actual value to the world he lived in, and smiled and laughed as he did so in spite of the significant uncertainty in his future.
The last years of Chadwick Boseman on Earth – as far as I see, today – are a lesson that the lives of the likes of Jesus the reverred figure of Christianity, Stephen Hawking the physicist, Fela Kuti the “king of Afrobeat” and Michael Jackson the “king of Pop” have showed us: your time on Earth is not about having a long or healthy or financially successful life (these are nice to have, of course!); your time on Earth is about adding actual value, in some way, to the world around you – in a way that, who knows, the Universe may have uniquely designed you to.
(Originally written on the 29th of August 2020, the day Chadwick Boseman passed on.)
Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash