A friend told me about this, but I thought I’d go see it for myself. It’s a bench above a grave in Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetary. It’s just about 20 yards above the graves of Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee. In this vapid age of celebrity uber-alles, those graves still receive a constant flow of visitors immersed in the vanity of their fandom. The remains of these celluloid heroes, these men whose life’s work was mere pretending, still have tokens, incense, flowers, and other offerings heaped upon them. It’s as if the people who come, not knowing these men in life, seek a deeper unknowing of them in death. It’s not about who they were but who their mourners were not.
It seems to me that the hundreds of millions now addicted to “celebrity” are addicted to heroin of the soul. Like heroin, “celebrity” must be taken in ever-increasing doses to fill a hole in the user’s soul. And just like heroin, “celebrity” doesn’t fill anything but only increases the emptiness. Which, of course, only increases the need and requires ever larger doses of the illusion; of the shrieking unquiet voices.
Standing above the Lee graves you can watch their worshipers come and go. They leave their tokens and then pose in groups beside the stones for one last photograph of their brush with a dead celebrity.
This other grave, on a rise above and looking down upon the Lees’, is quieter but bears a simple poem on the sides of the bench as you walk around it. There’s no name on the bench itself. That marker is small and off to the side a yard or two. The bench itself is not a monument to vanity, but a simple gift left behind for any who may chance upon it.
If you like you can sit down and rest for a while on the poem cut into the stone. It’s in sun and shade; a pleasant spot to watch the clouds scud across the Puget Sound and shred themselves into rain and vapor on peaks of the Cascades to the east.
You might even bring a book and, opening it to a remembered passage, read,
…. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
An elaborate thought and true enough. But somehow, in this place, the simpler poem on which you rest seems better and more apt even as, below you, the still-living fans of Bruce and Brandon Lee pull up in their cars, leave their offerings, and drive away.
It goes like this:
“West lies the Sound. South a great tree.
North is the university.
East the mighty Cascades run free.
All these places were loved by me.”