Paul Walker died in a fiery car wreck yesterday, and I can’t quite shake this nagging sadness. He had a very pretty face, yes, but I didn’t care for any of the films I’ve seen him in and really don’t know anything about him as a person whatsoever. So why does it have me down?
As I scrolled my Facebook newsfeed last night, there were plenty of “RIP Paul Walker” posts and, whatever, if you admired him then it’s natural to want to commemorate him. I don’t fault people for that. Then I noticed one girl had posted something to the extent of “thousands of people die tragically each day and no one gives a shit, so why should we care about Paul Walker’s death?” I see her point, but that didn’t sit well with me either.
Maybe the reason high-profile deaths like Paul Walker hit us so hard isn’t solely because we worship the celebrity (we do, of course, but I’m making a different argument here). These moments remind us of our own impermanence. No matter how good-looking we are, how rich we are, how fast our cars are, we are all helpless against the chaos of the universe. We feel sadness not because we’ll miss the celebrity, but because we realize that our own aspirations are ultimately meaningless. One car wreck, and everything you’ve spent your life trying to attain has no purpose. Even celebrities who we think “have it all” are powerless, and that terrifies us.