Who Remembers … and What Will They Remember?


Sometimes we have a skewered view of our own times. We think someone is vital to our culture, and we want to eat up every piece of information we can get our hands on regarding that individual. Our sports and entertainment figures come to mind. Not that long ago, Michael Jordan was the hottest property any marketer could corner. My guess is, he’d still command a substantial audience, but not as he did in The Day.

And of course, before Michael was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

On today’s front fans—or the media who tell us what it is we want to see—seem more interested in troubled teens. Brittany Spears comes to mind. And Paris Hilton. And … need I go on?

But aren’t these people mere fading lights? Who will remember them … or care … fifty years from now?

Of course there are the fifteen-minute famers—the next Idol winner and runners-up, America’s dancer, inventor, survivor, millionaire, or biggest loser. Most of these folks fade from memory by the beginning of the next season, despite the fact that we talk about them by the water cooler and blog about them, and even spend our money to vote for them.

And all the while, the people of real influence seem to glide through life with little note.

This is not idle rumination. Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the infamous terrorist attack we in the US have come to refer to as 9/11. But other days were once thought to be so important they needed to be memorialized, only to be altered in name. Armistice Day, for example, became Veterans Day. George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday were lumped together to form Presidents’ Day.

Just so, the important people seem to fade from memory.

Forty-four years ago … forty-five this November 22 … three famous men died, one so ingloriously it crowded out the news of the other two. I remember asking nearly ten years later, which of the three the world would remember.

I have to tell you, I regularly forget the one and had to look it up for this post. Those three men are John F. Kennedy; Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World; and Clive Staples Lewis, who died at home at the age of 65.

In case you’re wondering, Huxley is the one I had to look up. Kennedy, I suspect, will be remembered because his name will continue to be the answer on many a history test. But C. S. Lewis? I tend to think his influence will be vastly more than both of the others combined.

Something similar occurred this past week. Two “greats” passed away last Thursday — Luciano Pavarotti, the gifted tenor that made up a third of the Three Tenors, and Madeleine L’Engle, author of more than 60 books, including the children’s fantasy A Wrinkle in Time. Pavarotti is the one I’ve seen on the news, the first one I read about on the Web. I’ve seen tributes and much has been made of his immense talent.

And L’Engle? I wrote some thoughts about her over at Speculative Faith. In the process, I came to realize that her influence was much broader than I’d suspected. So what do you think—in fifty years, will 9/6/07 be a date noted for the loss to our culture of a great singer or of a great writer? Or will our culture still care about such things … or be around?? 😛

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Published in: on September 10, 2007 at 1:06 pm  Comments (2)  
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