Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anthony Bourdain - We Lost a Citizen of the World Today by Peter Reum

Sometimes the news brings information that just makes my soul hurt. It is often information that is terrible because it is so surprising and heartbreaking at the same time. This morning brought the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. It immediately felt simultaneously as if I had been tased and hit in the solar plexus.

So many tributes have poured in all day. Presidents Obama and Trump finally agreed on something--their respect and admiration for Anthony Bourdain. People from all walks of life and many countries and professions expressed their deep sorrow and the positive impact he had upon people around the world. He brought people together. People who are entertainers, chefs, scientists, national presidents, physicians, gastronomes, and working people around the globe offered tributes, adulation, and respect. But the people who watched his CNN show, if they are like me, respected his honesty, candor, storytelling, and respect for ordinary world citizens.

When Anthony Bourdain spoke about people and issues he cared about, he was always listened to, even by people who disagreed with him. His recent advocacy for the ceasing of sexual blackmail and harassment by men around the world was a major independent source of validation of the injurious emotional and spiritual fallout from use of power to obtain sexual favor. One of the reasons his message brought gravity to the issue is because Anthony Bourdain was someone who did his utmost to be genuine in his encounters with people from all walks of life. He showed as much respect for shepherds who roasted pig for him in an outdoor spit as he did for five star restaurant chefs. He was just as likely to eat at a food stand as a high class eatery.

Suicide is the most uncomfortable type of death in the world today. It carries a stigma that most likely originates from the strong taboos the act of self-destruction historically had in certain religions and cultures. The forbidden status that suicide carries is probably due to the stigma that it is a form of death closely correlated with mental illness. On top of that, believers in certain religions teach that a Supreme Creator is the author of time of death because life is sacred.

For Anthony Bourdain, his decision to die was an action so personal, so private, that it surprised the entire world. Loss and grief is an emotional, completely personal reaction to an action that is so unexpected, so upsetting, that for most human beings, it shocks us to our foundations. We try so hard to not think about our eventual mortality that a suicide that is completely a surprise generates deep conflicting emotions that are not rationally resolvable. Lifelong grief remains with the people who loved and respected the individual whose suicide so deeply affected them.

I did not know Anthony Bourdain except through the wonderful work he did on CNN. I learned to trust his esteem for the unifying bond that breaking bread together offers. I learned that differences between cultures can be understood by the sharing in the universal human experience of sharing a meal. I learned that immersion into another country's culture is the only true experience that brings a glimmer of understanding how a citizen from a different part of the world lives. For all of those realizations, Mr. Bourdain, I hold your life in the highest esteem, and thank for the blessings of understanding you gave me.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved