I have been ill for a week. Flu. Awful. Now that I’m recovering I join countless numbers of folks around the world in being sick, heartsick. How can a human being as alive, as vital as Prince be gone from this planet?
With not much more to do than follow the public grieving over the loss of Prince Edward Nelson, I have been moved at the widespread tributes to the man and his music. Countless landmarks, municipal buildings, and public works have been turned purple in his honor. Social media feeds are filled with tributes, video clips, and personal sharing from people acknowledging how much his music touched them. In response to this public outpouring of grief there is, as always, the public scoffing. You know, those people who say things like, “Jeez, you didn’t even know the guy. Enough already.” Clueless, they are.
I’ve asked myself what it is about the loss of Prince that has affected so many, so deeply. Here’s three reasons that come to the fore.
His music was, for many, the soundtrack of some part of their lives, and losing him is like losing a person who was there, in the moment and in the flesh. Crazy high school rides in dad’s convertible, top down and music blaring. Prince. Salty, sultry sexual encounters. Prince. Dance parties featuring soaring air guitar solos. Prince.
Personal and artistic integrity. The guy definitely brought forth the unique shape of his soul and it was fully reflected in a presence that defied categorization. It seemed he was so true to his individuality that we didn’t even question it, and that is an uncommon clarity of consciousness. How rare is that, especially in a world that seems bent on calling out the freaks among us and shaming them (us) into conformity? I suspect we’ll hear more and more over the coming months about Prince’s quiet activism and generosity, which will further illuminate how the man stayed true to his own values and causes, his own call.
Finally, although most of us did not personally know Prince, his loss has profoundly affected us because, well, he helped us to know ourselves. He revealed our longings, our sensuality, our courage, our joy. And he did it all by embracing and embodying his own and then putting it on display. In other words, he showed up in all his glory and mirrored ours for us.
In the long run the ultimate testament to Prince’s life will not be all the beautiful purple lights, the words we say about him, or even the tears we cry. The ultimate testament will be whether we embrace and reveal our fullness to the world. I think we should try. Good night, Sweet Prince. I know you’ll give the afterlife a good jolt of your purple reign.