I woke up this morning and the news about Anthony Bourdain was the first thing I saw. I won’t say that it ruined my day, (because with kids, everything moves too fast to be able to dwell for too long) but it did affect me more profoundly than I was prepared for. I felt and thought two things equally and immediately:
1. “Wow, I never met this guy, why am I so sad?? and
2. I’m not surprised at all.
I’ve been busy all day, but Bourdain’s decision to end his life has been running in the background for its entirety. And I’m not alone. About half the people I came into contact with today expressed that they were feeling out of sorts…that their connection to him through his shows or books seemed to go beyond just guilty pleasure consumption or pipedreams. His choice of work, of craft, touched something visceral in these people (and me) and his decision felt personal and almost beyond belief.
For me, it was the same with Robin Williams. I don’t know him. I never met him, but his exit from the world was so abrupt & untimely, and his connection with the world so intimate as to elicit real tears.
Why? Why am I so sad about this? They weren’t people in my life. I knew neither personally, and yet, I felt connected to them in more than just a guilty pleasure, pop culture kind of way ( Hello RHOBH!!). Connected in a way that impelled me to immediately start reaching out to the people in my life to take their pulse.
What’s the draw? Where’s the difference? Why with these two is the darkness so relevant and painful?
I think that part of what strikes me with them is that they seemed to have tapped into things that were uniquely human: food and laughter. Things that bring humans together, that bind us, that get us through the dark times.
I don’t think that you can touch on those things in a way that resonates so clearly with such a large number of people unless you are intimately familiar with the darkness from which each protects us. Both of these guys connected with a large audience by tapping into the connective tissue that binds is all. One of them made us laugh through our tears and the other shared countless meals and stories of the world; each in his own way shining a light on those things that we have in common. The things that we use to cope. The stuff that gets us by.
And so it’s painful to hear that someone who made us say so strongly, so many times, “Yes! ME TOO!” could not himself see the connections that he made his life’s work to point out to others.
How could someone who sat down to so many meals with so many friends, someone who, week in and week out brought different versions of Home to each of our media screens, have felt so alone as to end it all for himself? How could a man who lived to make others smile through tears be so profoundly sad as to not feel any of the joy and light he radiated onto others?
I wish that only for a moment, I could have held their hands in those final moments, and let them feel for a second the warmth that they’d given the world. Because maybe, if they just could have felt that for a second, it could have cut through the pain, through the imbalance, through the dark, through the impossibility and given just enough flicker of strength for one more try.