Thursday, November 22, 2007
On Thanksgiving night, after our friends left and my family was asleep, I watched again the recent film about Edith Piaf called "La Vie En Rose." It's an interesting film. It gives her an horrific childhood, fame in mid-life, and loneliness and isolation in old age. The old Piaf would lay flat on her back in bed with the covers pulled way up to her eyes, shivering with fear in the dark. Maybe she was afraid she'd go to hell. Maybe she was just terrified to be at the brink of death.
Watching this I wondered if hers was the wrong way to die. I always imagined myself dying the philosophers death where I calmly said goodbye to family and friends, and maybe even joked a little. That's not what Piaf did. She was terrified and tortured. I wondered who had the better plan.
Maybe Piaf did. I remember what Homer said about what we would call tragic heroes. The hero finds what he's good at and enters into a mystical relationship with it. He sacrifices everything to be the best at it. He may be a lousy father and husband, he may have bad table manners, but he's the best at something and that's no small thing. When the end comes, such a hero dies badly. There was never any attempt at balance in his life. He lived to experience life at its fullest through his skill, and nothing in his experience prepares him for death. He dies crying and digging his fingers into the ground. And Homer says it's a good death.
Maybe the kind of person who lives life well is incapable of dying well. Maybe living life well requires us to love life too much to casually put it aside.
Or...maybe Piaf was neurotic and her extreme attachment to her lovers was a sign that her life was lived badly. What do you think?
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 11:12 PM