“Is it really better to burn out quickly than fade away?” —Burnin’ Burt
There are no good ways to die. Except maybe autoerotic asphyxiation. Anything autoerotic is probably a pretty good way to go. I’ve heard hanged people get erections, too. And possibly drowners.
Drowning I’ve tried and do not recommend. I used to be a breast stroker. I was pretty good until one day a kid playfully pushed me off a starting block. I hit the side of the pool, the lane line, and clunked my head on the bottom of the pool. Looking up, I could only helplessly watch as my swim team jumped in to save me. I don’t like having my head underwater anymore. Not at all. Drowning is not a good way to go, erections or not.
Your quoted conundrum comes from a Neil Young song that also declares “Rock n’ Roll will never die.” If rock isn’t dead, it’s certainly in the nursing home. Classic rock may still be classic, but contemporary rock usually just reminds us of something classic. Retro cords, retro feels. I might love every Warlocks cd or think Dinosaur Jr. is rad, but Rock n’ Roll’s best days are behind it.
Would it be better for rock n’ roll to have burnt out quickly than fade away? No. It’s nice to have a rock song that every once in a while knocks your socks off, that reminds you of the good old days. Nostalgia is a stronger emotion than love. It won’t be the things you loved that will touch you in old age. It will be whatever you can remember.
The thing about burning out quickly is that the burner-outer doesn’t really get to enjoy the comet of fame as it streaks through the night sky. When you’re dead you’re dead, and it seems death lasts a really long time. I wouldn’t think whatever temporary glory would be worth it. You don’t get to attend your own funeral, and if you did I think you’d be bummed out because funerals are always kind of a bummer, especially when it’s yours. You don’t get to read all the nice tweets people will send out about you afterwards.
Fading away is totally underrated. People see you on the street and whisper to each other “That looks like someone I know.” Someone mistook me for Lief Garrett once. I thought that was pretty cool, even if he is 10 years older than me. Imagine if I really was Lief Garrett. I’d be like “I still got it!” Life as a has-been isn’t so bad. You get to go on reality TV shows. People still want to take selfies with you. Even if you’re a minor player in the universe you remind people something about their past that makes them smile. In the past, everyone is younger.
The hand of fate can be cruel or kind. It’s not up to people whether they become legendary or forgotten. I’m not sure which one would be better. Surely Shakespeare would be embarrassed by all the attention he’s gotten since his death. He didn’t even write most of those plays! He wasn’t very sexy! He looks more like me than he looks like Joseph Fiennes or the new guy from TNT! Talk about bald-washing.
I’d say that the world is better with you in it. And you should give people the chance to enjoy your presence for as long as you possible. There’s only so many people in the world, a finite amount. And like the butterfly who flaps his wings and causes the stock market to crash, maybe you were meant to save someone from Nazi zombies. Or to give someone directions on subway. Directions that might someday SAVE THE WORLD. Hey, you can’t ever know what effect you have on the universe. And we humans ought to stick together and look out for each other. It’s us against everyone!
Our lives are not our own. We’re part of something, even if we live out in the woods and never talk to anyone. We’re connected, we’re stuck here with each other. For as long or as short a time as we are. If we live long enough we might completely contradict who we’ve been our whole lives. We might lapse into self-parody or embarrass ourselves utterly. We might turn out really weird like Bran on ‘Game of Thrones.’ But like the Stark women said, “Our stories aren’t over, yet.” I am hoping my story involves tacos. Endless tacos for hundreds of years.
Just don’t come back as a white walker. Don’t become a zombie or a vampire. Don’t bury yourself in a pet cemetery. Live as long as you can and die forever.
Image: Edu Lauton via Unsplash