Friday, February 11, 2005

Attention Must Be Paid 

Arthur Miller has died. He was 89. He lived one of the more fabulous of American lives. He died at home, surrounded by family. You can't feel sad about such a life, such a man.

The same could have been, and should have been said here at Corrente, about Ossie Davis' passing from us. I meant to, but everytime I tried, it made me too sad to talk about it. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were part of my growing up years - unique American artists, separate and together, when an American president could talk about art as if it were central to American culture. They had remarkable staying power. They became such a class act, they moved above the kind of scratchy racism used against so many other artists. Nothing tickled me more than their appearance in "Do The Right Thing." They never paid it safe.

Arthur Miller was already a theatre classic, when Ruby Dee starred on Broadway in "A Raisin In The Sun," and was already struggling with the American curse - no second acts. He refused to name names, and he still got the blonde shiksa. Miller managed not to be destroyed by becoming a celebrity; maybe because he'd already been one, a threatre celebrity. What I think is most admirable about him, he kept on writing, he kept on commenting, he kept on paying attention. A second act and then some.

Certain people whom you don't know personally and are unlikely ever to meet, nonetheless, are part of your personal world, because living at the same time that they are alive makes your life different, better in some way. When they go, when their voices, their visions, are finally stilled, it feels like a personal loss. I've felt that way about a huge variety of people, from Stravinsky and Balanchine, to Jean Renoir, to Wallace Stegner, to Julia Childs, to Uta Hagen, to Johnny Carson to Ansel Adams and W.Eugene Smith, to Buster Keaton, To Fannie Lou Hammer.....I could go on and on....What occurs to me in looking at that list, in thinking about Arthur Miller and Ossie Davis, is that all of those figures, artists, writers, activists, citizens, were, in one way or another, part of a liberal world view, one that has always insisted that paying attention was a form of citizenship available to anyone who takes the time to do it.

corrente SBL - New Location
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~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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