Monday, February 10, 2020

Christina Grimmie's Great Affection For Life

There are good reasons why I have marked this day every month for the past three and a half years through some form or mode of engagement with the life and legacy of Christina Grimmie.

This is not simply an exercise in personal nostalgia. Indeed, I didn’t have much familiarity with her prior to June 2016.

I have been a musician for nearly 50 years, and avid appreciator of a wide spectrum of music for as long as I can remember. And though I was forced by health problems to step back from classroom teaching, I remain active as a university professor through writing and research on — among other things — the task of understanding the nature, impact, and pedagogical potential of “new” communications media.

By the middle of the last decade, I had seen quite a bit of the range of creativity and personal engagement taking place on YouTube and Instagram. Meanwhile, Christina’s stunning breakout on The Voice before millions of viewers on mainstream broadcast television could hardly fail to draw the attention of music people, even people like me who were not especially tuned in to the styles of pop music that the kids were listening to.

When I heard about Christina Grimmie's tragic and astonishing death I was shocked and deeply sorry. I started to give special attention to the YouTube videos of the small girl with the huge voice who had amazed everyone in 2014 and had been so suddenly, inexplicably taken from us less than two years later.

That was when I began to see that her achievements as a singer, a musician, and a "presence" in the emerging environments of digital interactive media were beyond any ordinary measure. I was struck by the depth and commitment of her faith in Jesus Christ, but with time I realized more and more how pervasive that faith was "within" everything she did.

She didn't hide her faith, but she spoke of it with simple directness, and not all the time — indeed, not very often — but in a timely fashion, in those moments when it was "necessary" to "use words." Otherwise, she carried out a vigorous engagement of her music and many other interests with a vitality and affection that were so evidently human, and at the same time so 'different' — in a way that was fascinating and provoking.

People found that they wanted to respond to her immense affection, in which her whole life was invested with joy, spontaneity, gratitude, positivity, sincerity, hope, and humor; a great embrace that she opened up to everyone and invited them to share, always with tremendous respect for their freedom and their own particular personal gifts.

I never met Christina in this world. I wish I had. Still, I have found that her luminous life is a gift to me. Her humble, courageous, confident living of her faith in the midst of a difficult and often discouraging world is a sign for me that I have come to cherish.

I never expected to find anything like this on YouTube, or in 2010s popular music. It's easy to grow cynical, to forget, to assume we have nothing new to discover in life. Yet it always remains possible to be surprised. I return to Christina's legacy at least once a month (often in the midst of many other preoccupations) and I find myself surprised all over again.

She helps me to remember to continue to hope, to persevere even when I feel helpless, to grow in the conviction that in the mystery of life (and no matter how it may appear to our narrow vision of a given moment) evil does not have the last word.