Wednesday, December 28, 2011

R.I.P. 2011

I've spent a lot of time the past few nights collecting and posting photos of people who died in 2011.  I've posted them in the appropriate sites: the theatre people at Stage Matters, the authors at Books in Heat, the science fiction figures at Soul of Star Trek, the boomer heroes and pop culture figures at Boomer Hall of Fame.  There's even an earlier post at Blue Voice about three of my college professors who died this past year. 

Even with all those, I've missed some significant names, like artists Cy Twombly, Richard Hamilton, Lucian Freud.  I also don't know what to make of two of the weirder notices I came across: like the 23 year old German porn actress, Sexy Cora, who died from breast enlargement surgery complications, and an Italian actress named Dorian Gray, who committed suicide by gunshot.

I started doing this a few years ago, with the stubborn conviction that I should pay respect to people whose legacy should be remembered.  A way to say thank you.  But this year it may have gotten away from me.

So here I want to note just four that mean a lot to me.  I noted the contribution of Lynn Margulis here earlier.  I posted about James Hillman at 60s Now.  Hillman's work has been most present with me, and I didn't know he died in October until a few weeks ago.  Neither of these two have made the lists or photo albums of big newspaper and media sites, with Elizabeth Taylor and Steve Jobs.  I included two photos of Hillman because they show two aspects of him that I value.  Upon reflection, it does seem that he had seen to his legacy well.  He'd written his books, saw to an edited complete works, left some late thoughts on video, and apparently cooperated with a biography, the first volume of which is published in 2012.  The biography may tell us more about the smiling man in the black and white photo.

The black and white of Hillman in the center even resembles the black and white of Joko Beck at upper left.   She's another person whose passing doesn't make those lists.  But her books, especially Everyday Zen, were and are important to me, and she was personally a teacher to a dear departed friend.

The fourth photo is Vaclev Havel, who bridged the gap between the arts and politics, and brought a human, ethical spirit to both.  His books are still inspiring.  (Even this extra-large photo cuts off the right edge, so you might need to click on the collage to see it in full.)

I leave them, and you, and 2011, with these words from Wallace Stevens' poem, "Peter Quince at the Clavier":

Beauty is momentary in the mind
The fiftful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body's beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting.
So maidens die, to the auroral
Celebrations of a maiden's choral.

Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death's ironic scraping,
Now, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise. 

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