In Defense Of Mourning   Leave a comment

I’ve seen some Facebook posts today from leaders in the Church, friends I like and respect very much, expressing dismay at the outpouring of adulation for Prince, suggesting that it distracts us from our work for change in the world, our responsibility to love. Most stress that their concern is no criticism of Prince himself, but go so far as to compare the outpouring to idol worship.

Though I’ve heard this idea expressed before—about post-mortem celebrations of Prince and many other dead public figures—and usually pay little mind to it, this is the first time I’ve seen (or at least noticed) it from people in a place of authority in the Church—people in a pastoral role.

As I responded to one of these friends, I thought I would share here what I said to him, expanding on it a little bit:

For many of us, the artists we love become like dear friends or even family. Though we never meet them, we feel we know them through their work, and as their work speaks to us, we have a sense that they know us. The artist’s work—and by extension the artist themself—is often a daily companion, and changes the way we think about the world. For those of us who have been through deep depression, there are some artists who have been quite literally life-savers. Who hasn’t been encouraged through bad times by a beloved song or album? Who doesn’t have a go-to movie or book for rough days? A writer whose work always alters your perspective; a painter whom you feel sees the world exactly as you do?

And so when a treasured artist dies, we grieve for them in a very real way, as we would for a dear friend or family member. And since these artists are widely loved, it’s natural to share our grief on social media, and “gather” together in that public sphere with other fans, experiencing, in a fashion, the way we might gather to comfort one another at a funeral.

I don’t dispute that grief can reach an unhealthy place: even grief for someone we know personally can become a kind of idol worship. But outside of such extreme situations, we’d never think to tell someone, “Your expression of grief over your grandmother is distracting you from the problems of the world,” or, “It’s inappropriate to express your adulation of your dead friend.” Why would we invalidate the deeply-felt grief of someone mourning a celebrity? Isn’t comforting the afflicted at the very heart of our responsibility to love?

I’ve hardly even begun to process my own grief for Prince, because I’m still asking, daily, “David Bowie can’t really be dead, can he?”

I don’t have any sense that those of us who mourn for Prince—or who are still mourning for David Bowie—are forgetting the problems of the world or abandoning our work for change. We’re simply taking time to share our grief with one another, as well as our gratitude for the gift that artist was to the world.

Posted 23 April 2016 by Br. Scott Michael Pomerenk, BSG in Uncategorized

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