“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” So said Roger Ebert. It is with great sadness that I must report the death of this great man, one of my heros, film critic Roger Ebert, who died to today of cancer at the age of 70. As a young teenager and film buff I was an avid viewer of "Sneak Previews" on my local PBS station. I have to confess that one of the reasons I tuned in every week was to see the clip from the first Star Wars film that was in the show's opening credits; and I must confess I preferred his partner in debate Gene Siskel. When Gene died of a brain tumor in 1993, I stopped watching the show altogether . But I have to say all those years of watching him and Roger duke it out over something they loved and I loved – movies, left an indelible impression on me. In fact, I do believe it had a profound effect on my critical thinking skills. And I am not alone in that assessment.
I rediscovered Roger many years later via his website and blog and I have to say I quickly became a fan of his writing, reading his reviews for the sheer joy of his love of language and his love of movies. As I read deeper into his blog I found out that he had salivary gland cancer, had lost his lower jaw and in fact could no longer speak or eat and yet was managing to live a full life and continuing to follow his passions with as much fervor as his health would allow (which up until the last few months, was quite a lot).
Just two days ago he announced the launch of EbertDigital, told us that his cancer had returned and wrote: "At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness."
He did not allow himself to be consumed by bitterness or despair. We should all have such grace.
I will leave you with these words from his recently published memoir:
"Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."