Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Roger Ebert: "Awake In The Dark"
I loved Roger Ebert. I loved how important art and empathy was to him. But I did not truly start to miss Roger until a minute or so before writing this article. It didn't start to sink in until I started typing the words you're reading. It occurred to me while watching Doug Walker talk about him that there were times where he laughed so hard he could barely breathe. There had to be. And I wondered what that must have been like without being able to speak.
Did it hurt? This is all conjecture, gleamed from years of watching him spar with fellow critics on television, and pour himself into his writing. But the strangest thought has entered my head: Even with his stone-faced expression, even with half his face gone, I'll bet you could always tell when he thought something was really funny.
It's been months since he died, and everyone's said their peace and moved onto the news about the Boston bombing, and the Zimmerman trial(both of which I'm glad never got the chance to wound his heart). And I've been sitting here just keeping things moving in my life at their slow pace. I really should say something. This is no mere celebrity passing for me. We are talking about a personal hero, my greatest educator on the joy and respect a man must feel for the great Nouns of his life. Things, places. People.
I never met him. I never will. The only recent correspondence I had with him was a single comment on his last journal entry, the day before he died. His medication and his sickness took their toll on him, and his website is staffed even now. I don't know if he himself ever read it, although it was approved to be posted. I guess it doesn't really matter if he knew or not. I don't know what validation it would give me to know that for one second, he knew how grateful I was for his guidance. I guess it doesn't matter.
I have no suitable words for what his reviews and journal posts mean to me. I've spent countless thousands of nights in a cold and harsh world, tempered only by a few hundred words on a monitor. Be it a ravaging of a summer blockbuster, or a quiet, thoughtful ruminating of an hour-and-a-half dream from some distant country. We all know the cartoonish anger of his reviews of films like "North" and the Transformers movies. But what I never expected was the unconstrained joy he had watching a Studio Ghibli or Walt Disney feature. I didn't think it was possible to care about anything as much as he cared about the movies.
It's not fair to anyone's legacy to try and encapsulate a life-time with a few glossy synonyms. I'm still at a loss. Whenever I had trouble figuring out my feelings on something, I would seek his words. Something to clear up the haze, the doubt and the frustration. Some reminder that people are capable of cutting through to the facts of existence. I wonder if that's the way a religious person feels, when they seek a holy tome for answers.
I'm sorry to admit that I've "borrowed" pretty liberally from his work in the past. I still catch myself doing it. At least now I remember to quote the man. In the worst days, I could always count on his voice, even after he could not speak. He accomplished so much, touched so many lives and all with words. Those simple little things that hurt more than bullets and sing more than music. He only wrote about what was important for you to know. In doing so, in keeping a strong(but flexible) code, in being unafraid to share what he felt in the deepest of places, he saved me from an awful fate. It's because of people like him that I'm not ashamed to be passionate about the dorky things I love.
There, I did it again. The "saving from a fate" line is swiped from him. I'm getting better, though.
I'll miss him. I'll miss his words. This is the man who revealed to me that words have a lasting power. But I guess words aren't going to cut it right now. It's not enough to eulogize a person, or remember them. It's not enough to care deeply about art and life. We have to show it. And more importantly, we have to share it.
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