This is the time of year when people recall events of the past 12 months, but more important, the lives we lost.
Just this week, two remarkable men of music, Ravi Shankar and Charles Rosen, died. Ravi Shankar, the sitar virtuoso (and much more than that) was a tremendous personality whose fame grew through his association with, among others, The Beatles, and who helped introduce Indian music to a wider world. Charles Rosen was a notable pianist but gained greater fame as a writer, beginning with his prizewinning book The Classical Style and his essays on a wide range of subjects.
Their work and their careers affected and inspired many millions of people. But our lives are touched more directly, aren't they, by those closer to us? Most people we know aren't famous, but they still have an impact. Most of us don't live on a world stage, but a private one.
A close friend of my friend and colleague, Bob Hughes, had a close friend who died last week. Bob and I go back a while, and in recent years, Bob, since leaving The Wall Street Journal, has tried to expand his life by living in Paris a few months a year. Thanks to our digital age, he can continue to work from abroad.
He told me about a loss he suffered last week, when his friend Georgia Fee died. I wanted to write about her, and what she meant to him, because although she is not known to the greater world, Bob tells me that she had an enormous impact herself on more people than she would probably have known or admitted to having influenced. For one thing, she did something with her life that she wanted to do. That is, she had a dream and she lived it: She created her own business, and she moved to Paris. How often does someone end up doing what she loves? Living where she has dreamed of? I'm an entrepreneur, as well as someone who strives to help others realize their dreams, and I know how difficult this is to accomplish. Most of us barely get through the day -- it's the lucky few who know that each day is an opportunity to become better. Georgia, Bob says, was one of those people.
Her business was, and is, since it will go on, the website ArtSlant.com, which contains information on gallery and museum shows around the world, and essays on exhibitions and artists. Georgia had always been interested in art and finally found the wherewithal, abetted by her partner Catherine, to see this interest blossom into a thriving business.
Georgia had also been a lifelong Francophile, and this brought her to Paris, where Bob first met her a few years ago when he started his life there (he lives in New York, too). Georgia had heard that Bob had been an arts reporter for many years for The Wall Street Journal and asked him to write for her site, which he started doing, contributing criticism on exhibitions in Paris.
Georgia helped enrich his life in Paris, especially when he was just a naïve American newcomer among the Parisian natives. More than that, however, she demonstrated to everyone around her remarkable poise that comes from someone who is content with life, despite whatever life throws. Bob admired that, and sought to emulate it. This is a quality I admire too -- I've helped a lot of writers become more successful, and I've been blessed to know a lot of people who have become more widely known, but so many of us in the trenches, so to speak, are beaten down by the day-to-day living that we neglected to see the magic in the everyday. And from that magic comes the miracle of change, of realizing one's dreams.
Georgia's family name, Fee, was pronounced "fay" by the French, because her name exists in French as the French word "fée," meaning fairy, and that's how it's said. Bob told me that Georgia turned out to be a fairy godmother of sorts to a host of people, effortlessly generous, always present and possessed of that rarest gift, the ability to listen to someone else.
Georgia succumbed to lung cancer, despite having quit smoking a couple of decades ago. Stricken this summer with a recurrence of the disease she thought she'd beaten into submission a year ago, Georgia had moved back to Los Angeles for treatment in September. But the disease proved too much.
I mention my friend's late friend alongside the exalted names of Ravi Shankar and Charles Rosen and other notables who died in 2012, because as we look back on our year -- as we each should, since self-examination should encompass not only daily doings but annual events -- we shouldn't look only to the famous and the widely-celebrated public figures to help us recall what we lost. We should, during this holiday season of friends, family and fellowship, remember those who touched us personally in our daily lives. That's where all of us actually live: beside each other. And we shouldn't forget that, in our hyperactive digital world, that the palpable human presence, the actuality of each of us here striving to become what we dream of becoming, is what makes us truly part of the world.
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