Statement of Intent: Panegyrics

“Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.”
-Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill

I have a morbid streak. A big one. It’s a running joke in my family. And I’m getting to the stage of life where, when peers die, they seem less aberrations than pioneers. Thus in recent years, I’ve found myself asking frequently “How would I eulogize (insert name here) at their funeral? How could I sum up how marvelous a person this is, everything they meant to me, everything I loved about them?”

It occurs to me: maybe it would better to say these things now, while (insert name here) is a position to appreciate them. I could post them here on this blog, in the face of God and all the world.

There’s a problem in that. If you tell someone, “Hey! I wrote a eulogy for you!”, no matter how grateful the person might be to hear the sentiments conveyed, there’s going to be an undercurrent of I ATEN’T DEAD. Instead I’m dredging up a very old Greek word: panegyric. My panegyrics will not follow the ancient and strict rules for the form. I’ll just be saying what I want to say. But the intent will be the same: to sing praises, and to convey the great worth of the subject.

This is not entirely risk free. Eulogists don’t have to worry about their subjects objecting. If you set out to praise a person and ascribe to them elements they don’t feel are accurate, it could hurt. Should I say the wrong thing, I hope the object of my praise will take it in the spirit in which it is intended. I do intend to run these past the person before I post them.

These will not be exhaustive of all the people I know. I will be writing them at random, as the Spirit leads me. If I don’t write one for you, then I assure you, I love you and admire you. Please don’t assume otherwise. It may very well be I can’t find the words to convey what you mean to me. I might in time.

I don’t even know when I’ll write the first one. Watch this space.

  1. There is a prohibition in some cultures against naming a child after a living person since you have no idea what that person might become later. Saints become scoundrels, and loveable comedic father figures turn out to be serial rapists. Likewise, monsters sometimes repent, and only a little time and distance lets understand a life in context.

    • lysid said:

      This is most certainly true. Any tribute can upended by new, horrible, facts. It’s a risk.

      A risk worth taking. It’s the risk you take when you love somebody, that you perhaps you don’t really know them. You can never be 100% sure. The alternative is not to love at all. That’s not a good path.

      Besides, I need to post something positive, just to balance out the agonized shrieking about nuclear weapons.

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