I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m exploring various quotes and proverbs that many of us live by. I’ve always balked at some of them, but I’ve only recently stopped and began to examine them to see them for what they are. What I’ve discovered is that many of them that leave our lips on a daily basis are just complete and utter twaddle. We say them without thinking. They suddenly slip over our lips and before we know it, thinking we’ve spoken something that may be held as a universal truth, but in reality is a bit of drivel that we should have sucked back up at the moment it tried to escape. I think these so-called maxims not only need to be challenged but also banished from our language. I’m going to thrash out some of them here at Curious Crow from time to time whenever my fancy is tickled. Maybe one of them will resound with you and you’ll want to challenge it, as well. Hold my hand, friend, and together we can rid the world of word twaddle.
I was reminded of one of these asinine quotes recently while reading accounts of Thomas Kinkade leaving us for that softly-lit cottage in the sky, and that is “you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.” Who made up this stupid rule? Who decided that once someone croaked we shouldn’t speak badly of them? We’re not supposed to even if the person was a rotten toad while they were alive. Why should I speak kindly of Thomas Kinkade when he’s dead if I didn’t do so when he was alive? Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Kinkade expelling his last breath didn’t suddenly turn his work into something I want hanging on my wall. Pre-death, his work was saccharine-dripping dreck. Post-death, it’s still dreck. In life he was a shady con man, and having his lights unplugged didn’t change that. Why should I say nice things about him or not voice my opinion about him just because he died? While I may feel badly for his family’s loss, his death doesn’t make me like him or his work. It certainly doesn’t make me respect him.
I think our willingness to instantly respect and almost canonize the dead is a reflection of an unhealthy and even dangerous view of death. Death scares us, so we have to make it sacred. Silly. We know we’re doing to die, so we should just accept it and embrace it. As surely as we were born, we will verily kick the bucket, push up daisies, turn toes up, pull a Kinkade. It’s dangerous for us to think that once we’re dead who we were isn’t going to matter because we have the “speak no ill” safety shroud draped over our shoulders. If we’re going to be dirty bastards in life, we should have to live with the reminder of that at our funeral. Instead of someone struggling to come up with something nice to say, there will be people lined up to talk about what an arse we were. Maybe then we’ll equate the permanence of death with the permanence of how we’ll be remembered, which in turn might urge us to start being less jerk-like while we’re alive. Think about it. Do you really want a eulogy that starts with, “Thom was a real hoser of an art hack who scammed a lot of nice people out of a big chunk of their money”?
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can leave her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.