It’s hard to put into words exactly what I’m feeling right now which is probably why this will ramble a bit and likely be rewritten many times over to make some sort of coherent thought that you might conceive as one of a human.
As I woke up this morning I did the usual thing I do and I rolled over and picked up my phone which had been incessantly beeping at me to get up for the past five minutes, unlocked it, and awaited the flurry of notifications of things I’d missed during the overnight hours.
He listened and learned.
One of those alerts has had me reeling since that moment this morning and it read “Anthony Bourdain, Chef, And Television Host, Has Died At 61“.
This morning I have been dealing with a profound sense of loss. And even after hours of processing it over and over I think what it comes down to is in my world this man is what I would like to think is the personification of an American and he is no longer with us.
He was a smoker, and a drinker swore like a sailor and had what might be perceived as liberal views. He had tattoos, and daily rituals of Jiu Jitsu, and had been on numerous TV shows and publications. None of these things are necessarily what endeared this man to me. So what is it that makes his death linger in my head more than others? To put it in the simplest terms I think I can…
He listened and learned.
In a world where it’s now commonplace that long-held scientific facts are being questioned and people would rather argue any subject from their desk chairs across the country, he traveled the world. He sat face to face with people who could be considered friends or enemies in terms of his nationality. He would sit across the table. Sometimes with one person, but oftentimes with a group or a family. He chose to bridge cultures rather than retreat to the relative safety of a political corner.
People around the world would invite him into their homes as they make traditional meals from their parts of the world. Over an often home-cooked meal, he would ask questions about their life, situation, food, politics, and numerous other subjects. The art of the show was his ability to ask a question and then listen. You watch his show and if you stripped away the narration that he so easily seemed to roll through what you are left with are other people telling him their stories. Without continuing to have to own the conversation he came to understand and respect their culture and the people who chose to invite them into their home.
This is the way that I love to travel and have found the most rewarding. I want to experience a place, talk to the people and sit with them for conversations and learn what the rest of the world is like rather than judge it by stereotypes, or from a keyboard hundreds or thousands of miles away. In his death, this is something I want to make more of a focus in the future. It becomes far too easy to make travel all about a checklist of things you need to see and in doing so lose the essence and beauty of what makes those places unique, vibrant, and beautiful.
It becomes far to easy to make travel all about a check list of things you need to see and in doing so lose the essence and beauty of what makes those places unique, vibrant and beautiful.
I wrote earlier that I felt he was an American personified. It’s not that he was some sort of patriot. It wasn’t because he was religious. It wasn’t because he was a member of some political faction. Instead, he was a human being. A human being that no matter how flawed was tolerant of others regardless of their ethnic, religious, social, financial, or political status. He took time to learn and understand how people live and what shapes their beliefs.
I don’t know him personally and never had the opportunity to meet him his legacy should guide us to strive to better understand our neighbors, be more tolerant, and above all take time to listen, learn and understand… preferably around a table with good food and drink.
Rest in peace, Tony.
Please know that if you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and there is help.
Crisis Text Line: 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255