I’ll declare at the outset that what I’m about to propose is a false dichotomy. This world is not divided into Tom Pettys and Stephen Paddocks. But I’m going to go ahead and assume that this is a false dichotomy worth exploring, holding our introspective discoveries in check with an anchor in the greyscale reality of infinite possibility between extremes.
October 2, 2017 will forever be marked by the saddest pair of bookends any day could ever hope to claim: Stephen Paddock shot approximately 600 people, killing 60 of them, including himself. One guy in a little over an hour. At the end of the day, Tom Petty died after being rushed to a hospital having been discovered in full cardiac arrest. He affected more lives than Paddock and did so in a diametrically opposite way.
From one perspective, these two men influenced people in ways almost every single one of us cannot relate to. Shooting into a crowd of concert goers from a self-constructed military outpost high above in a hotel room with no expressed motive . . . writing, recording, and performing songs that added beauty, understanding, enjoyment, and life to the experience of uncountable millions . . . almost no one in the world knows what it’s like to do that.
But the reactions I read on social media, heard on the news, and felt in my soul after hearing of these two inexpressibly sad events fell into two very different compartments.
After the shooting, the reactions were filled with anger, raw pain, shock, arguments, accusations, judgments, and hatred.
As the news of Tom Petty’s impending death leaked across the wire, the reactions were more poignantly phrased memories of his music, quotes of his lyrics, links to his songs and videos and photos.
Paddock incited our emotions to violence while Petty caused us to wax poetic.
And I was left wondering which approach I really want to take.
Look, I know there’s a place for debating/extolling the need for gun control. I know there’s a belief out there that guns without restrictions are necessary for defending ourselves against the government . . . especially this government. I know that discussions about mental illnesses and how we deal with them as a society are probably vital.
Please don’t forget to add beauty into the world. I’m sure there are plenty of Facebook fights and controversial posts that have led to great improvements and personal/community revolutions that have changed society for the better, but it’s a lot easier to remember the songs, stories, plays, works of art, photos, films, and random expressions of kindness that were a bit more effective at sweeping away the clouds and reminding us that the sun shines on us all.
Beauty is a right. Beauty is a privilege. Beauty is a responsibility. Beauty is a necessity.
Beauty is a renewable resource. Let’s get to it.