Cold Dead Hands

Charleton Heston has passed away.

I have a confession to make.

I don’t care.

Famous person so-and-so, who did this and that, passed away today at the age of whatever.

I don’t care.

The fact of the matter is, people die. They die of natural causes, of accidents, and of foul play. Sometimes they die in the most horrible, painful ways imaginable, and sometimes death is instantaneous. Most often it is somewhere in between. They die as infants, before ever having lived; and they die as ancients, whose lives were long and full. Some die nameless and alone, with none left to mourn the passing. Some die hated, the death a cause for celebration; and some die well-loved, a tragedy that brings heartbreak and ageless pain.

But everybody dies, and that is why I cannot feel anything other than apathy when I hear the news that a famous someone whom I do not know and with whom I have no relationship has succumbed to fate. One stranger’s death has no more relevance to me than another’s–no matter what that person did with his or her life, and no matter how that person died.

I felt nothing when Heath Ledger accidentally killed himself; nothing when Jerry Fallwall breathed his last hateful breath; nothing when Pope John Paul II finally let go of life; and again, nothing when they finally pulled the plug on poor Terry Schiavo. Even Princess Diana’s death meant little to me–I had never liked her petulance–but the quiet, stoic grief of her sons brought me to tears.

Indeed, if I felt anything, it was only annoyance at the gossipy media’s expectation that these deaths should mean something to me. Dread, that I would be inundated with neverending obituaries and eulogies. Sympathy for the grief of the families, friends, and lovers left behind.

But nothing else. The passing means little to me. The life and legacy of the deceased also means little, except perhaps as an intellectual appreciation of his or her achievments, if any–and only depending on the nature of those achievements. The achievements of an entertainer mean nothing to me. The achievements of a religious leader also mean nothing, as well as the legacy of a overpriveleged princess. How does the life and negligible accomplishments of these famous people affect me or my life? So why should I honor them? Why should I mourn their deaths?

Charleton Heston has passed. His hands are cold and dead.

And I don’t care.


18 thoughts on “Cold Dead Hands

  1. Wasn’t he a bit of an arse anyway?

    On the whole, I’m with you. But if it’s someone whose work I have admired or relished, it sometimes saddnes me that someone who gave so much has passed.


  2. yeah but now we can finally pry that rifle away! huzzah!

    i have to say…you gotta respect the guy on some level for spending so much time on screen shirtless when Bowflex hadn’t even been invented yet…

    AND, if it weren’t for him, i wouldn’t have a Dr. Zaius doll to top my Christmas tree…

    nor would i work so hard at finding occasions to say “unhand me you damn dirty ape!”

  3. Damn, Rachel, you write so well!

    This is a terrific post, and with a few exceptions, I agree with you.

    I share your views of Princess Diana but since she has attained near-saintly status since her death, it is sacrilegious to express them.

    I admire your honesty and lack of hypocrisy. Sometimes the deaths of strangers touch me, but rarely those of movie stars or moguls. I cry for abducted children and other innocent victims of torture, but still, my mourning is impersonal and cannot be anything else because ultimately, we were strangers.

    As for Mr. Heston, I agree that maybe now they can pry his rifle out of those cold, dead hands and give it to some other fringe lunatic with respectable credentials.

  4. Exactly. I’ve got a more personal story, these two kids who went to my school were riding in a car with a third one night. They weren’t speeding, drunk, high, or any of that, and they weren’t speeding.

    The car hit a patch of wet leaves, hit a tree, and everyone but the driver died. We had a Rocket Talk-school wide discussion-about it. The facilitator for my class asked me what I learned from the tragedy, and I told her I didn’t know what there was to learn from these people dying.

    I could hear it in her voice and see it in her face that she thought I was right, but still thought I was an insensitive asshole.

  5. You’re so typical of the heartless and unfeeling generation you represent! We as a people stand on the shoulders of giants, and our culture and lives are enriched by great novelists, actors, statesmen, musicians, and the like. When a celebrity is lost, a part of who we are is lost. A part of our cultural identity that we develop as kids watching tv and learning about the world. When one of those people who you knew from the tv dies, a part of you must feel something, right?!

    And Diana was more than some privileged princess; she did much with her life. you are a tool… an utter abomination and a weenie biter. ow! Rachel! ow stop! go away i’m trying to rant about you! dammit! Ok, I give up, I’m sorry I ranted about you.

    Love you sweetie! =o*

  6. Given my complete lack of connection to the world at large, I didn’t learn this until I saw it on another blog. And I don’t care about Charlton Heston dying because he was a creep. And generally I don’t care much in general about famous people dying. But once in a while, for no real reason that I can see, the news of a famous person’s death will hit me just a bit. Gregory Hines, for instance. Just made me sad.

  7. wow. i can’t claim to agree with you remotely… as every death i hear about touches me and does evoke some sort of feeling (whether it’s the death of a famous person or a stranger on the news)… and the insensitivity with which you write about death bends my soul in a painful way.

    but you did write it beautifully… i have to admit 🙂
    different things strike all of us in different ways. i admire your courage to admit this is how death “moves you” (or doesn’t) when it may be seen by many as… controversial?? so for that… bravo to you.

  8. “anonymous”–I know who you are and where you live, you scurrilous knave.
    and I also know, that for the most part, you agree with me, and are just using my blog as a platform to troll. shameful.
    and don’t you have dishes to wash? the kitchen sink is starting smell.

    martha–very diplomatic reply. Thank you. 🙂 But, its not that I’m “insensitive” about death. I will be devastated when my own family, friends, pets and loved ones die. I also weep at death and pain scenes in movies and books, and I can empathize with the grief of those the deceased has left behind. But that’s the thing: its emotions and emotional attachment that’s key here. I cannot feel sorrow or grief for the passing of someone I have no emotional attachment to. No matter how well known someone’s face and name, I feel no emotional attachment to him or her. And his or her death affects me just as much as that of some nameless stranger.

    The reason I wrote this post because I sort of resent the media-imposed implication that I should feel something.

  9. The best thing about celebrities dying is the blog content! 😉

    I agree with you. Dying or being born is just not that hard. All humans and animals do it. So what?

  10. Hear! Hear! It’s pretty obvious that you are commenting on the cult of celebrity and the mass media value attached therein and that you are absolutely not making insensitive remarks or speaking ill of the dead. Even your commentary on the passing of one Jerry Falwell was a simple statement of the facts as you saw them.

    I am always amazed at the fluff that fills the airwaves, newspapers, etc. Amazing how much money is made from trivial “news”items isn’t it?

  11. I wonder if they had to pry his rifle from those cold dead hands or just bury it with him? We are cold!! But I understand your position.

    As we just pass the anniversary of the needless death of Dr. ML King, a true hero of mine, these “lesser” lives pale in comparison.
    In a Christian tradition I am sure my grandmother would encourage: perhaps we should just look on those as poor souls with an undeveloped potential to be greater than they were.
    Maybe next time; in the Hindu

  12. Rachel,

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems your apathy towards death as written about here on your blog is actually a hint of your fear of your own death and of those close to you. It’s possible you’ll deny that, but maybe it’s subconscious?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m scared to death of death.

  13. in my opinion, the media always fixates on the events that aren’t important – celebrity gossip is the perfect example; their births, scandals, deaths are just a distraction, something we can fixate on so we don’t have to think about the things that really matter.

  14. I can’t get all worked up about people I don’t know either. But I do remember myself watching Charlton Heston movies — my tiny kid self in pajamas, marveling at his Ben Hur — and I mourn the loss of that time.

    When Princess Diana died, a lot of people were all caught up in a grief fest. It gave them something to do as a collective whole, and I think a lot of people enjoyed that. Many of us were left rather cold and untouched by the whole thing. I suspect we’re the people who didn’t clap when Tinkerbell was dying and who don’t want to grab flags and start waving them around when the country is caught up in a patriotic fever.

  15. in reply to your reply to me 🙂

    that makes so much sense. and i think i agree with you after all, reading your clarification. even though i don’t know them, i am saddened for the people he’s left behind… knowing there are people who really did share a deep bond with him and are probably left brokenhearted at his passing. but his death isn’t one that will make me cry or that i’ll even think of as i sit here today.

    thanks for the clarification, rachel 🙂 i love these blog relationships. it’s elating to be able to discourse with people on different sides of various issues and come out friends in the end. hahaha… not that i would worry it might be otherwise… just sayin’ 😉

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