Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rest In Peace, Mr. Walker.

I was sorry to read of Paul Walker's passing.

I never knew the man, and looking through the list of his credits revealed how unfamiliar I was with his work.  But I am still saddened by the sudden loss of someone so clearly in the prime of life, even more so in the thought that his final moments were filled with shock and horror -- as they must often be for those who are just not prepared, or even remotely willing, to go.

Mr. Walker's passing was certainly not the only death of the day, nor did it stand alone in the tragic category, as I woke to news of eight people killed when a helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow.

As I read further through various news websites, I discovered that there were a number of other deaths, both the expected and unexpected -- and there are undoubtedly countless more that did not grace the headlines, nor even merit (not sure according to whom, as who would conceivably or arrogantly have the right to determine that one person's death is more significant than another's) a brief mention on the bottom of page six.

But nonetheless, the news of Mr. Walker's death made me pause; not simply because of the spectacle of it (and certainly not lacking in a morbidly serendipitous sense of irony, as he is perhaps best remembered for his performances in the Fast and the Furious series), but because he certainly seemed to be one so full of life.

I do not mean to imply that his life was somehow more noteworthy than those who also died today -- but the fact (at least for me) is that his celebrity made him a familiar face; and while he is no less a stranger to me than the others, his life was more…documented in our popular culture, even if was sometimes seen only as a fictitious portrayal on the big screen.

And maybe his passing seems all the more significant to me as it occurred just a couple days after...

I planned on writing a blog piece on Thanksgiving, about Thanksgiving.

I think it's a holiday that gets the shaft, falling in between Halloween and Christmas like a quarter slipping down between the couch cushions.  Hell, it's not even mid-October, not even Halloween, before all the stores have the Christmas gear on display -- so why should Thanksgiving get a fair shake.

In fact, Thanksgiving has become all about Christmas, with Black Friday Holiday Shopping Fucktaculars.  And why wait for Friday?  Stores now open on Thursday, on fucking Thanksgiving, just so people can shop.

Now, if you're friends with me on Facebook, you're probably well aware of how much I loathe Black Friday.  I think people who camp out in front of Best Buy and Walmart are losers of such immeasurable magnitude.  I think the whole event is nothing more than based on greed; and when I see videos of people trampled or knocked down or punched or tazered while scrambling for whatever shit they seem to think they can't live without, I don't feel even the least bit of sympathy for them.  Would you feel sorry for someone gored while participating in the Running of the Bulls?  Probably not.  Because as the saying goes, when you mess with the bull, you get the fucking horns.

But I really hate Black Friday because of what it does to Thanksgiving.  It takes a holiday that is meant to celebrate and recognize gratitude for what you have, and turns it into craving stuff you don't have.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1998.  I left family and friends behind in Chicago, while I set out to make my future in Hollywood.  For the first few years I was out here, I was only able to make the trip home for Christmas, so Thanksgivings were held "orphan-style".  That means a bunch of us (friends and coworkers) got together, and had a potluck Thanksgiving.

And while I enjoyed those occasions immensely, it made the holiday all the more significant for me, as I was truly, truly grateful for the family at home in Chaicago I was unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with.

After my sister got married, and started having kids of her own, it became a priority for me to make it home not only for Christmas, but for Thanksgiving as well -- as well as every opportunity I possibly could

And I realize how fortunate I am.  At forty-three years of age, I still have both my parents, while I know many people who have lost one if not both of their parents.  I am so grateful that my parents are still with us, but of course there is no shortage of concern, or many a sleepless night, about how much time I have left.

But I know that I am missing moments -- the crucial, everyday moments, that we file away into memories that will last until we die.  And I am missing these moments for no other reason than my own selfish ambition.

But I also don't know what I would do; and there's one thing that I do believe in: you only get one shot at life.

There is a sentiment among some people that life is merely some kind of…well, just a long, long doctor's waiting room or DMV line, and when we die that's when we start really living, in some glorious and eternal afterlife.

It is a theory I don't subscribe to.

I don't believe in heaven.  I don't believe in hell.  I don't believe in an afterlife.  I simply believe that when we die, the life in us winks out like the light in a burned-out bulb, and that's it.  We cease to be.

I don't judge those who think otherwise, as we are all entitled to our beliefs.  Even I must admit that the idea of life after death is a tantalizing one, and understandably a source of great comfort for those who have lost loved ones.  We never want to believe that it is the end; that those who were with us, who brought us joy and love, will never be seen again.

Life after death offers the promise of reunion, as if death was not a conclusion, but a kind of walk around the block -- that there are no goodbyes, but merely a see you later.

But I believe that the only semblance of eternal life is our continuation in the memories of those we have left behind; that we somehow live on in the stories and anecdotes, and perhaps even by our absence in the places and events we were so familiar, even if it is merely by association, as with a song or holiday.

Mr. Walker died at forty years of age.  He was in the midst of shooting a movie, of living his life, and I'm sure that he had plans to do so much more.

But plans don't always work out.

We have no guarantees that we will live a long life.  We have no idea if today is the last day, not only for us, but for those we hold dear.

We live in a world of somedays.  Someday I'll see the Eiffel Tower.  Someday I'll write a book.

But someday can often just be a synonym, as in I'll call my sister tomorrow.  I'll talk to mom and dad tomorrow.

But the only someday, the only tomorrow (be it the literal one in the next twenty-four hours, or the figurative one of weeks, months, or years that pass by with ever-increasing speed as we get older) that is guaranteed us, is that we will die.

But we rarely ever address that; to speak it aloud, to say:

Someday, I will die.

Tomorrow, I will die.

But it's true.

Now, I'm now saying that plans are futile, that setting a goal or a future objective is a wasted endeavor.

Not so.

Make a plan.  Have a goal.

But start doing it today.

I'm simply saying: don't wait.  Don't put it off until tomorrow.

I would love to say that I live by example, but I don't.  I am all too well-versed in procrastination, in putting things off, in saying that tomorrow will be a better day to start.

I know this because of where I am in life.  And it is not where I thought I would be.

And I wonder how much more will I have to lose before it sinks in, before it's too late.

Before my tomorrow is suddenly today.