65. Christmas, 2016

Our society has devolved in an unsavory direction. We have become selfish and greedy. These are not values I associate with the holiday season, but they've become embedded in our 21st Century culture. I heard a song by Billy Joel a couple of days ago, We Didn’t Start the Fire, but that wasn't what popped into my head. For some reason I recalled Joel's video You're Only Human (2nd Wind). It is the video where he plays a "Clarence the angel" type character from It's a Wonderful Life. You still hear the song once in a while, but if I remember correctly, Joel pulled the video years ago. I looked on the internet for this information, but was unable to find one reference as to why Joel pulled the video.

What I remember from years ago (my apologies if my memory is faulty) is he pulled the video because someone took his life and gave Joel's video as the reason for doing so. The song and the video are clearly the antithesis of taking your life. I did some digging and Joel tried to kill himself when he was younger. He wrote the song specifically to help prevent young people who were considering suicide from doing so, so if this happened I understand why his reaction would be to pull the video. However the video's message is not careless, nor is it reckless; from what I remember, the video's message is thoughtful and done with the best of intentions, which are values I associate with the holiday season. Joel not only pulled the video he also never performed the song again, until recently. He performed it at Madison Square Garden in June a few days after the mass shooting at The Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando. He hadn't performed You're Only Human (2nd Wind) in 28 years. As I read some articles, I glanced at a few of the comments and some were adamantly effusive about the song because it has helped and continues to help people deal with the darkness of depression.

Looking back, there is no way to know if the young man who did take his life, wouldn't have taken it, if Joel hadn't written the song or if he hadn’t made the video. I don’t know enough about depression to be making any claims as to what is right or best. I do suspect depression is a lonely place to be. I can't imagine it is anything but a place of isolation, emptiness and deep pain. I too know many people regularly deal with depression during the holiday season and what this song and video do more than anything else is to reach out to a zillion different people as only art can in a zillion different ways. This song will not help everyone--no song will--but those whom it will help, it may help in countless and profound ways. Nothing can bring back the person who took his life, but what has been driving this thought is, not how many people have taken their life despite the video's message, but to wonder how many people Mr Joel has helped over the years and how many people were sitting on that lonely and painful fence and heard or remembered the song or saw the video and didn't take their life, which unfortunately is a statistic no one, including Mr Joel, will ever know.

originally posted December 2016
reposted March 2018

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