Monday, November 3, 2008

A Great Loss

We have these rare people, throughout history, who for whatever reason seem to shine a little brighter or impact more lives than the average human being. Shakespeare, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream talks about greatness via Malvolio: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

The way I see it, some people have the talent, perspicacity, and gift of communication such that they reframe our experience so we understand it in an entirely new way. They inspire, challenge, confront, and question… and as a result, we are made better through our interpretation of their shared journey.

In our increasingly public and media-rich society, the greatness of ordinary geniuses has become more widespread, and the celebration of everyday heroes more common. Yet even in recognizing the presence of beauty and nobility in those around us, we may still be struck by someone who seems to be particularly gifted… unquestionably special. Someone who changed the world through the process of making meaning of his or her life.

Studs Terkel was such a person. When I heard this morning he had passed away, my first thought was of my friend, Chloƫ, who I know will be heartbroken at his passing. My second thought was how truly ironic and sad it is that he died just days before an election he was surely following with great interest and personal investment based on a lifetime of advocacy, passion, and insight.

Sometimes I think when we lose someone like this, the world shudders a little. As if a little bit of life has been lost in a sudden exhalation… and we are not yet sure what we will get with the next intake of air. But perhaps the important thing is to continue breathing, and to be grateful such miracles exist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's true, I was very sad. But I've decided that from now on, every year on our shared birthday, I'll toast Studs and tip my glass to him. And I know somewhere out there, he's smiling down on Chicago this week. Hope all is well with you and yours.