Monday, May 11, 2020

Christina Grimmie's Legacy 47 Months Later

I have been counting months in honor of Christina Grimmie for ... a long time. Months and years too. (Not every single month but most of them.) It's a kind of vigil that I keep for a spectacular "rising star" in the world of popular music, a sister in Christ, and one of the "faithful departed" whom I entrust to the mercy of God.

Indeed, I recall the immense faithfulness of her life right up to the moment of her departure from this world. Her witness of love — grounded on her intention to live "for the glory of Christ" — has endured beyond the violence that ended her earthly life on June 10, 2016.

Since then our society has become more violent, more troubled, more incomprehensible to itself. The year of Christina’s death was marked, in the USA, not only by other high profile shootings in the ensuing months, but also by a strange plunge in the capacity for civil discourse and a deepening of interpersonal fissures that rendered dialogue and mutual understanding much more difficult. The ensuing years brought more irrational murders and further “weaponization“ of discourse. During this time we have been enduring a crisis of communication and increasing social fragmentation.

Now the year 2020 has brought new kinds of painful and distincly bewildering troubles. Presently we are experiencing a kind of powerlessness, frustration, and anxiety as we struggle through the coronavirus pandemic. We mourn the dead, have sorrow for those still suffering, and support their caregivers and all other essential workers. Also, we are all trying to stay sane during the quarantine, not knowing what changes in our lifestyle may yet come or how long they will last, and not being able to understand this bizarre virus — the different ways it impacts people, its dangers (known and unknown), and what needs to be done to treat it effectively and to deal with the ongoing socioeconomic “collateral damage.”

Through all of this we have seen some return of a sense of social solidarity, but it remains fragile and indeed is already breaking apart.

How did we get to this point, from the Long Hot Summer of 2016 to the Lockdown of 2020, in the past four years (less one month)?

Christina Grimmie, we miss you. We really need you!

Of course, as you know if you read these articles, I believe she’s not really so “distant” from us. Interpersonal relationships do not end with death, even though — obviously — they change, taking on a modality that for us is empirically obscure, mysterious, and beyond our power to “conjure” or control. Knowing that our loved ones live on as real persons (beyond our sight and with God) sustains our hope and is occasionally comforting for our emotions even if it’s not a substitute for the long journey through all the “stages“ and indeed the inexplicable whirlwind of grief. Death remains a deep mysterious wound, even if — ultimately — it is a wound of love, a sharing in the wounds that remain open in the One who died and rose and lives forever, the One whose wounds heal us and draw us to our fulfillment in that same unending life.

Though we can't help missing her, Christina is not so far away from us. And in a certain respect we can “see” this as we begin to perceive the growth, flowering, and fruition of the seeds she sowed during her temporal life, and that great seed sown deep in the earth which was her whole life given in love.

Her legacy is already at work in the world, for the good. Her contribution to the constructive forces of freedom and love that are working in history is a reality that continues to grow in collaboration with the work of others. There is much that is good in the world, and really we should give more of our attention and efforts to building up the good. It should not surprise us that in the midst of the problems of the present moment, we can also find new initiatives of goodness and a deeper awareness of the need for human relationships, especially in the realms of communications media and music.

During these 47 months, I have written much about Christina's commitment to her faith in Jesus, her beautiful personality, and her gifts for using communications media in a manner that I still believe — now more than ever — will continue to shape the ways these media platforms are used in the future, especially the ways artists relate and respond to their supporters in new kinds of creative environments.

The past couple of months have seen many artists take to live streaming — not only to promote their music and give their fans something (at least temporarily) to "fill in" for standard venue concerts, but also because the artists themselves are experiencing their own need for connection. Finding themselves “stuck at home” and less able to distract themselves from their own vulnerability, artists want to be with their fans and share music with them (and also to collaborate, "virtually," with one another) on a more personal level. This is a small phenomenon, not without its own ambiguous elements, and not guaranteed to last in its current form. But we have seen musicians spurred to be creative with a more "personal" openness, seeking to express their need (and everyone's need) for relationships and human community.

These days, perhaps, are leading us a little closer to the discovery that everything is personal, that relationships are the greatest treasures of life and that they are sustained by giving ourselves away.

Christina Grimmie had a spontaneous awareness of the possibilities and vitality of these virtual "new media" platforms ten years ago (when they were still "new"), and through them she built bonds with her frands and offered herself, making herself accessible to them in a special way. It was the very thing that set the intimate context for more direct one-on-one personal encounters after live concerts with people all over the world who felt "at home" with her.

She touched countless lives with this unique mode of "hospitality." And she held nothing back in giving herself, all the way to the last moment of her life.

Her giving-of-herself in this way has an ongoing “resonance,” I think, that reaches people today — and in this particular observation I am considering people who inhabit the deeply ambivalent realms of popular music and entertainment: realms so often dominated by greed, egoism, sexual abuse, psychological manipulation, and envy. Still, there is no doubt that God loves every single one of these people. The light that God shined, briefly, through Christina in those places, among so many people, was bright indeed (and they recognized it, as is clear from the tributes that poured in after her death). Even if many have since forgotten her, that light still shines and is passed on and is helping to enkindle new fires in the hearts of artists of the present and the future, and those who appreciate their work.

This is only one example of how Christina Grimmie's legacy continues to be important, and a small sign of the reality that she, herself, continues to accompany us and help us in these difficult times, four years later...