My favorite artist and my favorite fictional character died, six years apart, on the same date. On May 12, 2008, we lost Robert Rauschenberg. I remember my high school art teachers talking about him, specifically the combine with the chicken, Odalisk. It didn't really resonate with me at the time. It was later, when I was at Mars Hill, or I think even after I'd graduated, that I fell hard for Rauschenberg. It was Monogram, the combine with the goat (goats really intrigued me), that captured my heart. I became obsessed. I began to research him on my own. He worked incessantly and produced an enormous, tremendous body of work. For me there is more life and soul and energy in his art than in anybody else's. He gathered the detritus from the world around him and cobbled it together with paint and wood and canvas and made pieces that simultaneously felt universal and deeply personal. In interviews he seems playful, light-hearted, but in a way that masks unknown, subversive thoughts and feelings. Layers upon layers upon layers. His work is life and it makes me feel more alive than the work of any other artist.
Is it weird that I feel just as strongly about, just as connected to, Nick Fallon, a Days of Our Lives character who was pronounced dead on May 12, 2014? In Patti Smith's memoir, M Train, she talks about her affection for the moody crime drama The Killing, and, in particular, her love for its lead character, the troubled detective Sarah Linden: " . . . my subconscious mind seeks out Linden, for even as a character in a television series she is dearer to me than most people. I wait for her every week, quietly fearing the day when The Killing will come to a finish and I will never see her again." After reading this passage I felt vindicated, as if I was being granted permission to mourn Nick Fallon in earnest. Nick's story was so brief and so brutal. He was a character who could infuriate me but, more often than not, I loved him. And I related with him. And I think that's part of the reason he infuriated me, because I could identify, could empathize, with the bad that he was doing. I understood that his actions, both good and bad, came from a place of wanting to be loved, to be seen, to be acknowledged, even in some small way.
So I'm thinking of both of these men, and the impact both of them have had on my life. The way they put themselves out there, took tremendous risks, in an effort to connect with the people and the world around them. And I feel like that's what I'm trying to do. I'm always seeking those connections. So when I find fellow seekers, be they real or fictional, I recognize them. I embrace them. I am so grateful for their contributions. I am so grateful to be reminded that it's not just me out here. That I am not alone.