“…teach them well, let them lead the way…”.

I want to share some reflections on Whitney Houston’s death.

Rarely am I interested in celebrities or their lives.  This is not much of an exception.  However, I was in the U.S. when Whitney Houston died and naturally, heard a tremendous amount of news coverage.  More than I would likely have heard in Canada.  So her death has been very much in the forefront of my mind which to me is an indicator that there is some meaning to be discovered in processing this through.

First off, her death is a tragedy.  A tragedy the same as any death.  No more, no less.  Certainly no more than the thousands of un-named, un-known people who died on the same day in the same, or more painful and unjust circumstances.  My heart goes out to all families of all people who died that or any other day.  Someone is hurt and crying over the losses.  My heart goes out to them the most.

I saw the news story recently about the cause of death still being pending.  Understandable.  It is a high-profile incident with huge legal and publicity implications.  Of course those involved are going to be careful to be able to back up everything they conclude or say.

A sad fact is that this is even necessary.  Or that it is necessary for a celebrity, but not for the others.  That legal and medical professionals need to be more vigilant for a celebrity death than a non-celebrity death.  I understand why, but it is still sad.

The common practice of Talent Worship comes to mind.  I contrast this with Character Worship.  Frankly neither should be worshipped but I am sure you understand my point.  We, the consuming public, send a message to our entertainment figures that we value your talent more than your character.  We show you by our spending habits that we pretty much only care about your talent.  Your characters mean very little.  We will overlook who you are, how you treat people, and what kind of example you are to society, including our youth, in order to hear you sing, watch you perform, act, play, or what have you.

We will let you destroy your life, and harm those around you, as long as you give us what we want.  Then, when you finally self-destruct, we will worship your legend, once again ignoring the fact that you exemplified danger and how to live a self-consumed life.

Tragically, Whitney Houston once sang the lyrics that make up the title of my post.  The more complete   lyrics are, “I believe that children are our future… teach them well, let them lead the way”.  I am not standing here judging and shouting ‘hypocrite’!  I am standing here noticing the sad irony of the lyrics, the lifestyle, and the end.  Who am I to judge?  An ex-alcoholic and addict?  If anything, I am grateful that my drugs and booze behaviour ended prior to death.  And sad that Whitney’s and other’s didn’t. 

Why, I wonder, don’t celebrities and the wealthy seem to “get it” as often as many of the rest of us?  Could it be because they don’t have to?  Does their wealth and fame let them continue by buffering them from consequences that others of us come to more quickly?  Could it be that we, the consuming public, don’t care if they get it or not, as long as they keep feeding us talent to worship? 

Obviously I am generalizing here.  I suppose it asks the question of why some who seemingly have ‘everything’ come to early and tragic ends when they seemingly have opportunities otherwise.

It is times like these that I look at the losses in my life with gratitude.  The losses were significant enough to get my attention.  So who is in a better position?  The ‘privileged’, or those of us with less?

To be blunt, and I truly hope this does not sound arrogant, insensitive, or judgemental, at approximately the same age as Whitney Houston, would those of us who are clean, sober, and still alive… would we not then actually be the recipients of the more ‘privileged’ lives?

Is this not what we hope to teach our children to help build a better future?

My head is swimming in these issues.  And the last thing I want to sound like is judgemental.  I suppose I am shocked and rattled.  Maybe this is my mind telling me to just be grateful for each day and for all that has happened to bring me to a recovering life.

Your thoughts and reflections would be most welcome.

Ciao.

Chaz

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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23 Responses to “…teach them well, let them lead the way…”.

  1. debut dad says:

    Well they say you don’t really appreciate something until you’ve lost it.
    Those with all the fame and fortune sometimes can be blinded by the stardom and do not value the little things which are so important to you and I. This is obviously a generalization too, but you get what I mean.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debut Dad…. thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I often wonder how much value there really is in stardom. We are conditioned throughout our lifetimes to admire it and hold it out as the ideal. But is it? Not seeming that way.

  2. Debby says:

    Chaz- your point is well received. This very thing has been on my mind too for the same reasons. I even have a blog draft started on it though not as comprehensive as yours. I especially like how asked this: “would those of us who are clean, sober, and still alive… would we not then actually be the recipients of the more ’privileged’ lives?”

    Well said, as usual Chaz. Thank you for writing about this.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debby…. thanks for your reply. I am sure this is on the minds of many. I wanted to say something but not flame or judge Whitney. If what I believe is true, she is no less one of God’s children as any of us.

      A good and wise friend once advised me that it is wrong to judge a person, but facts and behaviours are wise to judge… particularly in context to what one would want for themselves. I would not want to emulate the behaviour of many celebrities if it takes me to where many of them go. And I see nothing to suggest I would go to any place different than where they do.

      Pleasure to hear from you as always.

      Chaz

  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Hi Chaz–I am always interested in what you have to say, your deep thoughtfulness. And sadly, I agree with so much of what you wrote. Our expectations of those in the spotlight quite fascinate me–both what we demand, and what we “forgive”/allow passively. Character is so much more important than talent–in fact, I would be so bold as to say that without good character, the talent is meaningless (at least to me). There have been celebs I’ve “disowned”, having discovered they are lacking in character–especially when their illegal activities which have endangered the public go unpunished, because they have money or “charisma”. I’m getting a bit wound up here, so will head off to church! I’m not perfect, my character is still being molded by the Father’s Hand–and any talent I have, well it comes directly from Him, too.

    Have a blessed day, Chaz–love to you and your family.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Caddo! Thanks for stopping by.

      It is a tricky line, isnt it, to separate a person from their behaviour. And even trickier to remain unjudgemental. Yet to make distinctions while limiting judgement is an amazing skill to develop and opens up such doors to be able to stay connected to people, learn from them, and/or affect them positively, even if their behaviour is something you disagree with or are even offended by.

      Years ago, I saw an episode of All in the Family in which a developmentally challenged man had been the subject of ridicule. Mike and Gloria were up in arms over it until he showed them a saying that hung on his wall, “All men are my superiors in that I am able to learn from each of them”, or some such. The context was that this fellow being mistreated looked at the offensive behaviour as a learning experience rather than taking it personally.

      Now this is an extreme, of course. And portrayed in fiction. Real life would be far more difficult I am sure we would all agree. But there is opportunity in seeing or experiencing the distasteful behaviour of others. Seeing this helps me to be less judgemental.

      Thanks for contributing to the dialogue!

      Ciao.

      Chaz

      • Caddo Veil says:

        Hi Chaz–yes, I am chastened for my attitude! One of my favorite Bible teachers speaks exactly to your point, that we should “separate the ‘who’, from the ‘do'”. What happened when I read your post, was that I immediately thought of a particular actor who has had multiple DUI’s and the police continue to give him a pass. It’s not about the drinking, nor the “stars get special treatment” deal–it’s all the innocent lives at risk, driving on the road with him!! It’s reprehensibly bad behavior–the height of arrogance that he continues it, and hypocritical to boot, as he loves to spout off about his “family and religious values”. And if he mows down and kills some lovely family one day, nothing will bring those people back–not “toughening up the laws”, not disciplining the police officers who didn’t enforce the laws, not even putting the dude in jail forever. I’m sorry to be on such a rant today–but it’s just so inexcusable. And if you tell me I can’t ever come back, I’ll respect your call–God bless and forgive my vehemence……

        • Chaz says:

          Hi Caddo…. not at all! You have said nothing to offend so please don’t worry. It was me who asked for perspectives and you have obliged by giving yours. I think we are all clear on our stance on some living by (and endangering others by) a set of rules that are different from the norm based on wealth, fame, or status. Yet this is nothing new. It is all pride at play. THanks again for adding to the dialogue. Ciao. CHaz

  4. Debbie says:

    Chaz – Yesterday proved to be very interesting. I was in a taxi in Houston during the funeral and in another taxi while it was still being broadcast. Both taxi drivers had the service turned up and were listening with rapt attention. The first even had tears running down his face.
    On the way back to the motel last night, a night shift driver shared what a sad day it had been, watching the funeral of “Miss Whitney Houston” on TV.
    For all 3 men, I think it was her success as a black American more than just her beauty or voice or celebrity that touched them so deeply.
    It made it all the more complicated: fame and fortune to be sure – but also race and rights that I hadn’t taken into account.
    We agreed that it was terribly sad, but I knew that was all they could hear from an ‘outsider’. The black community lost a hero and in a way both common and, I think to them, almost irrelevant.
    Debbie

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debbie… great points. And obviously ones I would not see from my perspective. Yet other perspectives was what I was hungry for in writing this post. Thank you for sharing this one that is both powerful and so distant from mine that I would not likely have discovered it easily.

      In the shoes of the men you share about, Whitney Houston’s shortcoming would probably pale to me in light of her contribution to the communities we would both a part of.

      Thanks for adding such value to the dialogue.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  5. Heidi says:

    Chaz–I’m suddenly finding that something happened within WordPress and my ‘follow’ was no longer in effect. It feels like looking out my window and finding the next door neighbors have rented their house out and I didn’t see them go!

    Of course, since I live in an RV and I’m usually the one moving, not my neighboring Brahmas and Mockingbirds, it probably makes no sense at all, which leads me to wonder if I did something inadvertently. Just want you to know I’ve missed the last posts and will be catching up.

    I agree with your other readers and add to the tally that you have aptly expressed my same concerns, probably better than I would. I tend to shy away from current events anyway and avoid the news from principle much of the time. However, last night I was alone in a hotel room and found the only interesting thing on TV was the Body Guard.

    I am so grateful for the times I’ve fallen down, for the times I’ve been in a desert, for the times that I’ve been flattened… I never want to go back, don’t get me wrong. But those times have shown me what’s really important to me. My sobriety and my resulting Good Life is worth having learned the hard way that I don’t want to numb pain any longer. I don’t want to ‘celebrate’ by zoning out and I don’t want to show the young people who know me that a ‘good time’ is only found in substance abuse.

    I’ll think on this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As ever, I really enjoy hearing them.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Heidi! THanks for stopping by… and no problem on the disconnect…. happens a lot to me too.

      To discover what you discovered about the good life on the other side of problem drinking and problem thinking is often, in my experience, something we have to learn ourselves. And when high profile people go off this deep end and don’t seem to suffer consequences, not immediately at least, I become concerned that young people who do not have such buffers to consequences as wealth and fame may think they may able to get away with it. Which, if the consequences are non-fatal for them or others, perhaps could teach them somehting, however, as we have seen, consequences are often fatal. If not for them, for innocent people around them.

      But what would I do in Whitney’s or Charlie’s (Sheen) shoes? I dare not presume I would do much different. Certainly I would hope for better, but I will never know, not having been them.

      Great to hear from you.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  6. Debby says:

    Chaz, I’m posting my take on this tomorrow and linking to your post. Since I know you’ve allowed this before I’m going under the assumption this will be okay with you. If not, please let me know. Thanks again for the post.

  7. Pingback: Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief « livingingraceland

  8. Lou says:

    I think the Michael Jacksons and Whitneys surround (buy?) themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear. I don’t mean that maliciously or callously. That is what money can do.
    Whitney and Michael and others could pay to have mattresses put on their “rock bottoms” so the consequences would never be as painful as for the average person who loses their job, family, driver’s license etc. Reminds me of Joe Walsh-
    -My Masarati does one-eighty-five.
    I lost my license, now I don’t drive.
    I have a limo, ride in the back.

    Suffer one consequence, pay someone to make it go away. Thankfully my son had no cushions on his bottom. He had to quit or die.
    My post today I called addiction the equal leveler. Still, it’s sad, and I believe more celebrities should stand up as role models. If there are any;(

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Lou…. thanks for the comment.

      Yes, this is exactly what I am talking about. Buffering the consequences of addiction or any other harmful behaviour. The matress you mention could very well be stuffed with money. Yet, clearly, it only buffers for so long…. and in fact, only defers the mounting consequences. The longer we “get away with” our dysfunctional and destructive behaviour, the more practiced we become at it… we get better at being destructive. So what advantage? What “privilege”? None that I see.

      Quit or die is one of the best crossroads to face… glad your son chose quit.

      Will look forward to your post.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  9. Caddo Veil says:

    Hi Chaz–Thanks for not kicking me out of class! I rarely go off like that–maybe when we’re feeling one strong emotion (like grief for Whitney), it’s easy to trigger another strong one, I don’t know. But I went to bed last night fretting and beating myself up for my rant–so was most comforted and reassured by your allowance of grace for me! Thanks again–God bless you most abundantly.

  10. judikruis says:

    Hi Chaz – as I read I can relate to the wondering. I was thinking of those I knew/know – they aren’t rich or famous – but still choose to keep their addictions – no matter the cost or what is lost. Praising God for those that dare to change direction and praying peace and courage for those who haven’t. Good pondering.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Judi… Thanks for the comment…

      I often wonder what I would do in their shoes. I would hope for something different, but I know if that were easy, more people would do it… So obviusly there must be forces at play that keep some celebs stuck.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Chaz

  11. Anna says:

    Thank you as always for your post. I too have been so angry. I don’t think it’s judgmental to call addiction by what it is. If more people in society would stop co-signing and allowing these people to live like this just because they are celebrities. An addict is an addict. Doesn’t matter what walk of life you are. Politician, lawyer, doctor, pastor, nurse, waitress it will kill us all equally. It doesn’t discriminate between class or race and if society could realizes and accepts that. Maybe then things will change. All I can do for myself is remember that I’m no longer that person. I made the right choice, I continue to do so. I had a good cry. Because I saw myself, what and where I could be. Where I don’t want to be. I have empathy and compassion for her journey and her suffering and it sad to know that it’s such a waste of life. I cant imagine the suffering that went on inside her, that caused her to want to not feel. That makes me sad. She was such a beautiful person, with such a gift. Just like everyone of us.
    Anna

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Anna… In reading yor reply, it occured to me that much of what we express concern over when celebs engage addiction isinfluence. I think we are often upset that those who society, including our influential youth, look to and emulate are harming and disappointing our culture. Pllus of course we think or would hope that in their shoes, we would do differently. Would we? I would hope, but will not likely ever know.

      Ciao

      Chaz.

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