12 January 2016

Disorganized Remembering

Everybody's taking about remembering the dead lately, it seems. My boyfriend woke me up around 7 the other morning with dire tones.

"I'm afraid I have bad news, babe. David Bowie's dead."

In the pause between those sentences, my heart skipped a beat. His grandmother was in the hospital again. One of the cats had torn another cat's ear off. My dog was sick. Surely it was a personal tragedy he was about to impart to me, my torn-from-sleep mind insisted.

David Bowie? Oh, just a famous person. That was okay, I could deal with that later. (I did.)

Everybody has feelings about David Bowie, it seems. Good feelings, and bad feelings. I have feelings, too, but they're not important to share tonight.

The last week, I listened to "The Fault In Our Stars" on audiobook. It's a book about two teenagers with cancer, and it's a book about being in love and first love, and it's set in Indianapolis, which makes it particularly eerie to drive to work near the Castleton mall while listening to a narration of Hazel Grace walking through that same mall with her oxygen tank, letting a curious little kid try on the nubbins that deliver the oxygen that forces her lungs to be lungs.

But the local setting just keeps the story fresh in my mind longer, it's not why I'm bringing it up now. The thing is, these teenagers have this conversation about dead people, because of course they think about dead people, and about how many of them there are compared to how many living people. And Augustus Waters (the boy) says there are about 14 dead people for every single living person (I haven't validated this statistic), and we don't remember them all because we're disorganized mourners: everybody remembers Shakespeare and nobody remembers who he wrote Sonnet 54 about.

So everybody's busy remembering David Bowie, and I'm thinking about all the thousands of people we're not remembering because we're disorganized mourners. There's been a lot of genocides where everything about so many people gets completely lost. There's a lot of ancient history with presumably a lot of people in them whose names and deeds and general things about them never got written down.

I had to read Homer's "Iliad" in high school, and I remember thinking it was such a downer to read all the lists of people who were killed, but I guess they've been remembered.

But not everybody has a grave or even a name written down.

And this is not to discount David Bowie or your personal, or our cultural, grief about his death. It is simply to say: who is it we are forgetting?