'The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.' - Czesław Miłosz
The easiest way to discern an individual's value to greater society is to witness the praise and respect offered to them by their peers. Expand this, or minimise it. It is always the same. Whether it is a figure in a particular global industry, or a valued friend in a small local community. They are left behind in the people that are left behind. Social media and modern connectivity have allowed us to observe this to the scale of nations, and a broader global community. A case in point for me has been the recent deaths of Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While I had read on them, seen their films or films about them, and consumed other forms of culture that were influenced in some way by their reach, I could never truly know what they meant- how they were to be missed. It was only on diving into the discourse across social media that I got a better sense of how these individuals were received by the people around them. And therefore, how they were to be remembered. If we are to change as a society, if we are to make the necessary movements, a large part is going to have to be the value we place on individuals while they are here, and when they are not. Where our praise and our criticisms land. The outpouring of grief across all channels was palpable. A kind, generous artist, who spearheaded a vital franchise film that gave his community its rightful, long-sought-after place on the global stage. A Supreme Court Justice, who advocated in her life and in her work for gender equality and women's rights. I didn't know them. Most people wouldn't have. Some even expressing their grief might not have. But that is the important thing. Our connectivity, our global closeness, is what allowed us to feel how much it hurt. It was the United States that suffered the most. As an Australian, as someone who had not known either of them personally, I could only bear witness. But it drew an emotional response from me. Why? Because the tributes were available to me in the palm of my hand. I could see what a hole each of them had left in their smaller, then larger, worlds. I could see the things said about them, how people felt. Close and far. This is what the Panther and the Justice reminded us, apart from anything else. Apart from the merits and the works of their lives. That we are together. That when the good ones go, we will always grieve. That when we get it right, we are missed. That we should somehow aim to be missed. That we should aim to live and produce and create and love as if we are going to leave craters with every step.
It it a glory of our modern connection, to be able to witness the feelings of others all the way across the world. To share in their joys and their hopes and their grievances. We are more together than ever. And we know it the most when the good ones go. Globally, or locally. We owe it to them, to ourselves, to acknowledge the holes they leave. To give the empty space the appropriate time to be felt, before we fill it in again and continue on, building on what came before. B. C. Taylor