The Loss of Influential People
The past couple of years has seen many losses in the world of famous people. The world mourns each time one of them dies. These people are lost from the world in ordinary circumstances. None of them have died in space trying to communicate with a new-found alien race. Each of these people have their lives stopped in a moment through ordinary circumstances– heart attacks, cancer, surgery complications, and even pneumonia. These are all ways ordinary people die.
Is it more sad if someone famous dies of cancer? No, it shouldn’t be at least. What’s sad about the whole thing is that we’ve lost this person from our lives, never mind that this person didn’t know we ever existed. We lose regular people from our lives, and those people know we exist, so why do we even care if someone we don’t personally know dies?
I think part of it is that we’ve lost their influence. Without this person alive we don’t have their influence actively in our lives. Does that influence really matter? Is it that important?
Does it matter who influences us? Does it matter whether the main influence in our lives is grandma or David Bowie? Influence is influence, right? So what if grandma taught you how to be a nice person and David Bowie influenced you to learn music? Both people influenced your life, doesn’t it make sense to mourn for both?
I think it does make sense, to a degree. You should certainly be sadder about people who actually knew you that were a good influence in your life, but I think it’s Ok to be a bit sad about David Bowie if he influenced you to like music, or Carrie Fisher if she empowered you to be a warrior princess.
If the person is gone who inspired you to write, or to make artwork, or to be generous, dies, isn’t it sad? Heck, yes, it’s sad. If we were talking about grandma that inspired us to do those things, you could bet your butt there would be crying and no one would make you feel bad about being sad for grandma. It’s not an ideal situation to be inspired by someone we don’t know personally, but it happens. Maybe without this famous person, we’ll never meet, we never would have been inspired to do the things that we do.
Wouldn’t it be sad if we never did those things? If Prince had inspired you to learn the guitar, when no one else in your family could inspire you in such a manner, is there really anything bad about it?
We are influenced in our lives by many people. Nowhere is it written that we have to be influenced by our family members and friends alone. Maybe the Pope influences you, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Ghandi, or Martin Luther King Jr., or the president–you don’t know any of these people, but if they influenced your life in a major way, you’d certainly be sad if they were not among the living.
Probably the saddest thing about a famous influence dying is the fact that we’re not going to get to show them how they influenced our lives. We’re not going to be able to sit down with Martin Luther King and tell him that he influenced us to treat all people equally. We can’t sit down with David Bowie and tell him that because of him music was a constant joy in our lives. We can’t tell that one dead president that he inspired us to go into politics or that one activist that she inspired us to speak up.
We worked so hard at something in our lives that the influencer will never know anything about. Our pride is a bit hurt because we can’t show off to them, but we also think that it would make a difference in this person’s life to know how they inspired someone else, to know that they did make a difference in the world. We sincerely hope that someone has told these people they made a difference because we never got to tell them ourselves.
So, mourn a little, not a lot, if a famous person who was an influence in your life dies. They might have never known what they did for you, but you remember, and that’s a reason to feel loss.