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I will admit at the outset of this blog post 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 from the early days of his career, the man was the closest thing to a musical genius this side of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Musically speaking, Prince could do it all—literally.
You may find it surprising to know, but back in the day—from the late 1980s through the late 1990s—I used to DJ house parties and outdoor events like barbecues, family reunions, and 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!”
But it wasn’t impossible.
It was Prince.
To this very day, not a single name comes to mind, not to my mind anyway, of any musical artist of whom it can be said that he or she produced, arranged, composed, and performed all of their own material.
I remember one summer waiting outside overnight in a line that wrapped itself completely around the now-demolished Omni arena in Atlanta, for a chance to purchase tickets to one of the five consecutive sold-out concerts Prince played 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 lives.
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 died.
I was at my office at work when I received a text message at 12:59 p.m. ET, followed by a phone call at precisely 1:11 p.m. That sequence of events was 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 undoubtedly continue to reverberate across the globe for quite 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 fallable and creaturely as you or I, had breathed his last in this world?
Why are many people so grief-stricken and dismayed at the prospect that the life of someone whom millions of people held an almost obsessive 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 than we do to people we know who don’t fall into that category.
We associate ourselves with them from a distance and yet we ascribe to them a degree of significance and meaning which, in many cases, far exceeds the value we impute even to those with whom we have established long-lasting relationships.
Something about their status as celebrities makes them important to us. Consequently, we grant to them such an elevated status as to deem them immortal, as if it were somehow unnatural that what is natural to every other human being 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 such events as the death of celebrities like Prince, is because we hold to a rather siloed 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 of our own morality (Psalm 90:10).
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 commoner alike, will see Him face to face (Hebrews 9:27).
“We are wise to talk of our last hours, to be familiar with the thought of our departure from this world.” — Charles H. Spurgeon
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 in terms of the level of admiration we impart to those individuals, not to mention the subsequent effects that such reverential posturing has 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 into eternity—none of it.
That he sold tens of millions of albums during his lifetime and accumulated a net worth that was valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars is of no significance or consequence 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 over one day.
For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. — Psalm 103:14
There is nothing like the death of a renowned celebrity to remind us of our own appointed departure from this world; and yet our appreciation of that reality is often momentary and quickly suppressed and dismissed (as is our habit in situations such as this).
That is, until the next celebrity death, when we are reminded yet again that they, too, like us, are but dust.
Humbly in Christ,
Pop Star Prince Reportedly Died of Opioid Overdose – Wall Street Journal (06/02/2016)