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I will admit at the outset that I was as shocked as anyone upon hearing the news yesterday of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson.
To be completely honest, I’m still a bit taken aback by it.
I will refer to Prince only by his name, as attempts to find adequate superlatives to describe his numerous talents and gifts would be utterly futile.
Suffice it to say, particularly for those of my generation who were fans of Prince since the early days of his career, the man was the closest thing to a musical genius this side of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Prince could do it all – literally.
You may find it hard to believe but back in the day – from the late ’80s through the late ’90s – I used to DJ house parties and make reel-to-reel mix tapes for outdoor events like barbecues in the park and backyard graduation celebrations.
I had all of Prince’s albums.
All of them.
I can remember purchasing Prince’s debut album, For You, and the amazement I felt after reading in the liner notes the words: “Produced, Arranged, Composed, and Performed by Prince.”
I was like, “No way! That’s impossible!”
It wasn’t impossible.
It was Prince.
To this very day not a single name comes to mind, not to mine anyway, of any musical artist of whom it can be said that he or she produces, arranges, composes, and performs all their own material.
I remember one summer waiting overnight in a line that wrapped itself around the old Omni arena in Atlanta, for a chance to purchase tickets to one of the five sold-out concerts Prince played one week during his Purple Rain tour.
Needless to say, like millions of others around the world, I was a huge Prince fan.
To many, the death of Prince will no doubt be viewed as one of those “Where were you when…?” moments that history seems obliged to bestow upon us as interruptions to our otherwise uneventful routines.
In the years to come, it will not be difficult for me to recall where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news that Prince had passed away.
I was sitting at my desk in my office at work. I received a text message at 12:59 p.m. ET, followed by a phone call at 1:11 p.m. – a sequence of events similar to what I experienced when news of the death of another music icon, Michael Jackson, broke across the internet and social media.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you say, “I have no delight in them.” Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” – Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6 (NASB)
As with the death of Michael Jackson, the aftershock of the reality of Prince’s demise will continue to reverberate across the globe for some time.
But why does news like this affect us so? Why do we care so deeply that Prince, a mere man who, when he was alive was just as human as you or me, has breathed his final breath in this world?
Why are we so dismayed, perhaps even grief-stricken, at the prospect that the life of someone for whom millions of people unarguably held an almost fanatic degree of worldly affection, is suddenly no more?
When it comes to matters of life, death, and eternity, we to tend to apply a different paradigm to the celebrities we idolize.
We are content to be allowed to associate with them only from a distance, and yet we reciprocate by ascribing to them a degree of significance which, in many cases, far exceeds the value we impute to those with whom we actually have a relationship.
Something about their status as celebrities makes them important to us.
Consequently, we grant to them such an elevated stature as to deem them immortal – as if it were somehow unnatural that what is natural to each of us should happen to them.
“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live forever, and this must be either true or false. Now, there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live forever.” – C.S. Lewis
The reason we are moved by events such as the death of celebrities like Prince, is because we hold to a rather myopic view of our own existence in this world.
We are so caught up in “living our best life now” that rarely, if ever, do we pause to reflect on the reality that this life is temporal.
We are oblivious to the fact that God has so ordained that from the very moment we are conceived we embark on an eternal journey which, ultimately, will culminate in that moment when each of us, celebrity and pauper alike, will see Him face to face (Hebrews 9:27).
How we react to events, good or bad, that occur in the lives of the celebrities we admire should cause us to examine ourselves.
This is especially true with regard to the level of admiration we impart to these individuals, not to mention the subsequent effects of such reverential posturing on our own heart (Matthew 6:21).
For all his God-given talents, gifts, wealth, and fame, Prince could take none of it with him. None of it. That he sold tens of millions of albums and accumulated a net worth valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, is of no importance to him now (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19).
And so it will be with each of us when our life on this earth is over – and it will be one day.
“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” – Psalm 103:14 (NASB)
There is nothing like the death of a celebrity to remind us that we are finite; and yet our awareness of this reality is usually temporary and quickly fades away.
It always does in these situations.
That is, until the next celebrity we idolize dies, and we are reminded yet again that they, too, like us, are mortal.
Humbly in Christ,
Pop Star Prince Reportedly Died of Opioid Overdose – Wall Street Journal (06/02/2016)