CONTENT WARNING: Suicide, Substance Abuse
A little over two hours ago I found out that Anthony Bourdain died last night at age 61 after taking his own life. We live in a time where we are so often reminded of the ugliness of the people around us and even more so the people in the spotlight, so hearing that someone as decent as Anthony had passed hit me pretty hard. Ultimately though, the right thing to do seems to me not to mourn the tragedy of his loss as much as seek to celebrate all the light he let into the world.
Anthony, with all his myriad flaws, was a lightbringer. He illuminated the wonders of travel, of different cultures, shined a spotlight on the injustices of the world and lit up the dark times with his charm, personality and wit. He always looked to celebrate the differences in culture, welcomed the unknown, and passionately sought out new experiences while still maintaining a great level of respect for the people and locations he would happen upon. More importantly, he actually took it upon himself to pass on his experiences. He, more than most, realized the enormous responsibility of his platform, and treated it with the care it deserved. Amidst every all night drinking session, every dubious local specialty, every inhaled pack of cigarettes was a deeply caring message of inclusivity, of tolerance, of thoughtfulness.
For all the swagger and bravado he oozed with the attitude of a bass player in a 70’s punk band who somehow managed to live through the cigs, booze and drugs (which, to be fair, he did), that’s what I always left a Bourdain piece with. This strange, almost slightly timid sense of thoughtful worry, as if he realized that the world was simultanously filled with immense beauty but also teetered on the brink of complete catastrophe. Life, and all it might encompass seemed incredibly important to Anthony, and I think it pained him greatly to see the callousness with which so much of it was met. That is what Bourdains work feels like to me, on this day. A plea to the world to stop and realize the beauty of what we have around us as if to say “look! look at what I hold in my hands. this is precious, this is not to be dismissed out of hand”.
I would like to think that he was successful and actually made some people look, made some people pay attention. In a world such as ours, I think we would do well to celebrate those among our departed who let more light into the world than darkness. And that’s what Anthony Bourdain, for all his imperfections, sought out to do. There’s a saying that you should endeavor to leave a place in a better state than you found it. The world may not be a better place today than when Anthony found it, but it sure as hell wasn’t for a lack of trying on his part.