Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Sum of a Life

          I swear I'm still too young to be doing this. But it's a habit I picked up years ago, back when I still had enough free time to read The Economist. Quite by accident, I started reading that magazine's obituary page. And then I kept reading it. I looked forward to reading it. The obituary page! Because it is instructive. And so very well-written. Every issue, the magazine memorializes someone recently dead who had some impact on the world. Famous, infamous, unknown—The Economist always picks someone whose life made a difference, for good or ill. It was from the June 2, 2001 obituary for Malcolm McLean (the inventor of container shipping), for instance, that I learned why container shipping revolutionized trade and paved the way for today's global trade. Such a simple idea—I assumed it had always been around, but The Economist taught me differently.
          So now I skim the national and international obits from time to time. Just to see who died and what they did and what it meant and how we will be the less for their loss.
          And Sunday, in the local paper,  I read these lines in memoriam: "Andrew Breitbart was a Hollywood-hating, mainstream media-loathing commentator and website publisher who once helped edit the Drudge Report and launch the Huffington Post."
          I didn't know him; I didn't follow his work, and it's not my place to comment on his politics or his ideology. He died at 43, which is too young. What struck me so strongly was that the things he hated were apparently such a large part of his persona that his life could be summed up by listing his hatreds.
          I do not want be remembered when I'm dead for the things I hated, legion though they may be. I don't want the sum of my life to be a list of my hatreds. I don't want anyone reading my obit to pity my life.

I don't hate peas.

Or spotted Cows.

Or cats.

I don't hate big ugly fish heads.

Or kids and dogs and beaches.

Or blizzards.

I don't hate old monasteries.

Or lunch.

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