Saturday, January 21, 2012

The van Gogh list

So I have a Twitter account. Most of the time I use it to shamelessly plug new items in my Etsy store or let people know that something's been posted here. While the preponderance of Tweets (including my own) are meaningless blather, Twitter is somewhat worth watching because it reveals where the public interest is focused at any given time.

Yesterday, a few days short of her 74th birthday, blues singer Etta James passed away of leukemia. Suddenly her name, and the names of songs she had sung, were plastered all over the Trending Topics list; people across the nation and the world mourned her passing in 140 characters or less. And as I looked over these many appreciative comments, I thought to myself, "Self, what is wrong with this picture?" Of course Etta James did have her fans and supporters during her lifetime, but isn't it sad to see people speaking so thoughtfully of her and publicly championing her music when she's no longer around to appreciate it? And Etta James is scarcely the only one. Why do people like Eva Cassidy, Emily Dickinson, or for that matter Stieg Larsson receive praise for their creative output only after they've left the building?

One of the ultimate artists to become larger than life after his death was Vincent van Gogh. His paintings have become so prized that in recent years people with more money than sense have been writing out certified checks to the order of Christie's or Sotheby's for CRAZYBATGUANOINSANE dollars just to own one, yet van Gogh himself lived in poverty and died in obscurity. As far as we know, he sold only a single painting during his lifetime. The millions that people are now willing to pay for his art do him little good, and his reported last words -- "The sadness will last forever" -- continue to haunt fans of his work.

You know what? That's not right. I think we ought to do something to fix that.

Much has been said in recent years about the "bucket list" -- a list of things you want to achieve in your lifetime before you kick the bucket -- but maybe we ought to consider making another kind of list. I'd call it the van Gogh list: a list of living people, whether famous or obscure, whose work you admire greatly and whose deaths you would feel most keenly. The way I figure it, if you appreciate these people, why not let them know now while they still have time to enjoy the kindness? Better to throw them a great party today than hold a great wake tomorrow.

Do I have a van Gogh list? You betcha.


MarieC said...

Well said!!

mousewords said...

A van Gogh list - AWESOME! I feel exactly the same way whenever the world loses someone, whether celebrity or friend. But you've taken those feelings to the next level with a great idea that should become a meme!