Following that short set of tweets, my brain went into overdrive….not to be confused with obsessive-mode, of course. It was very difficult to tweet my feelings about this in 140 characters, and in order to do the question justice, here I am on a Thursday morning blogging about it. Thanks for feeding my thoughts, John.
My knee-jerk answer was that dead heroes are much easier to elevate to sainthood. Our memories are incredibly kind that way; but somehow, I don’t think that’s the complete answer. I began thinking about who my heroes really are. For the most part, I am lucky. The few people I would call my heroes are still around, but I do have a couple that have died in recent years. Most notably would be my dad. I’ve written about him before. He was very much my Superman, as most daddies are to their children. It was inconceivable to me that he could actually die of some stupid lung disease like Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. I mean, of all the things! That said, my dad was not perfect. He had a horrible temper that only softened once I had grown up and left the house. (imagine that!) He had a difficult time being wrong, and boy could he yell. He was very strict, more so with me than my younger sister (which honestly – she was the one who needed it and got into trouble every chance she could!), and he made promises he couldn’t ever possibly keep. He was never very good at buying gifts for my mom, I can count on one hand the amount of times he ever brought my mom flowers or gave her jewelry. Money was always a problem in our house growing up, so gifts were of the more practical nature. My mom never seemed to mind, though. The funny thing is that given all of that (and much more I’m not mentioning), when he passed away, I really forgot all of that. My dad was immediately elevated to sainthood and I have trouble reminding myself of the less-than-saint-like behaviors that went along with my dad. Other family members simply refuse to remember at all, which makes for awkward holiday discussions of our memories, oddly enough. The point of all this? Memories are extremely kind. I think it’s part of the way we want to preserve people – it is really rare that we WANT to remember the bad about people we are close to, especially the heroic ones. That admission alone says we’ve got them on a pedestal of sorts, even if in the process, we recognize they’re human.
Are dead heroes easier to love, though? I’m not so sure. I think in some ways, only remembering the good things makes it easy to love the whole person – I mean, if you discount the faults or less-than-pleasant things, I would imagine love would abound! I think it is always easier to love the ideal, whether the person is alive or dead. Isn’t this why Andy Taylor said never meet your idols, because they’ll always disappoint? Naturally when they’re alive, it’s harder (but not impossible) to trick yourself into believing they’re perfect. When an idol passes, they really can fulfill anything you need them to be, and there’s not really any way for them to prove you wrong in the process. The trouble of course, is that kind of love is based on whatever you make your hero out to be in your head and heart. It’s not reciprocated. Much like fandom…and in many ways, it’s just another side to that coin.
Thankfully, I have only had a few of my idols pass on, and none of them (so far) have been people that I’ve come to hold quite as dearly as members of Duran Duran. I know some will say that the band – Duran Duran – are not their idols. Maybe that’s so. In my case though, I don’t really know what else to call them at this point. They’ve been idolized as posters on my wall, music in my stereo, and the people I cheer for onstage. Wholeheartedly, with complete abandon. In recent years I have come to love them as people – at least as much as one can. I accept that they have faults, that they make mistakes and that yes, they even piss me off sometimes. I can’t imagine what the day will be like when one of my idols, one of the few I hold closest, dies. No one likes to think about that…and before someone sends me a nasty message I am NOT forecasting the impending doom of Duran Duran. I’m merely saying that it’s unavoidable. People die. Humans don’t live forever. I don’t know how we’ll manage, and I can’t imagine I’ll love them any more then than I do right now. Sure, it might be easier to love them…I suppose…but that won’t make the sense of loss any less great. It never does.