SWARTZ: Life’s short

Matilda Swartz

I harbor a rather unnecessary need to check various entertainment-based Web sites on a fixed daily schedule. It is really much more economical and environmentally inclined of me to check People.com for up- to-date news rather than waiting for next week’s newsstand edition.

Hence, I can hear of the next Hollywood love-child conception or power-couple split at a click’s notice. But sometimes, the news is not the pomp and peculiar which I usually swallow with laughter or hyperbolic disgust.

This past week, actress Natasha Richardson went skiing with one of her two sons. She tumbled and suffered a minor blow to the head, feeling no immediate pain. Hours later, she complained of a severe headache. Two days later, she was gone.

Not long after Richardson’s initial stumble, the incident was a People.com headline. Her picture remained the focal point of the webpage over the next 48 hours only with a constant rotation of its caption. The accompanying words evolved from, “Details emerge on Richardson’s accident,” then “Family Friend: ‘There is No Chance'” to finally “Loved ones attend wake for Natasha Richardson.”

The morbidity of technology had created the illusion that the rest of the public was standing by in real time, like extended members of Richardson’s actual family and companions, as if we outsiders were enduring the same emotional loss.

If I were Liam Neeson, I would be in an uproar.

It could be because I am enrolled in an upper level theology course entitled “Death and Dying” this semester, or it could be simply estrogen that has been conserving this issue on the backburner of my working memory. Wrapping my mind about the concept of somebody bumping their head, and leaving a family motherless, a husband a widower is a task I have yet to accomplish. Natasha Richardson was 45 years old, only at the halfway mark of what might have been a long, yet wonderful haul.

When she woke up on the morning of her ski lesson, could she have possibly been aware of what was to ensue? I do not think it entered her morning thoughts, or her afternoon thoughts, or even thereafter.

A recurring topic of discussion in that good ol’ Death and Dying course is the “unfinished business” dilemma. I suppose at any age it would be hard to cease existence without feeling that a few deeds went without doing. In the first few classes, we were asked to consider what our goals would be if we had ten years left, then two years and finally a brief six months.

The way my goal progression went, it seemed that the goals I set for a six-month deadline were the more adventurous ones; the goals that would make such an untimely ending worth living for.

With celebrities, the scales seem to be slightly tipped in their favor; Richardson had the chops and the family name to be a stage and screen phenomenon, not to mention an equally talented husband of her own. She had the funds to do great charity work; she had the flexibility to vacation in Canada with one of her sons. I cannot refrain from speculating that Richardson did indeed feel like she had truly been living life.

One realization I can take away from these musings on the passing of an icon I barely knew is this: If life as I know it can conclude at any moment, there is no time for procrastination.

I do not use “procrastination” in the sense that for the rest of the semester I will abstain from doing certain tasks on their due date; that would be unhealthily optimistic.

Essentially, I would like to see more people act for their own six-month goal lists. Life is too finite to question simple actions like personal reinvention via a box of Clairol Born Blonde or whether or not to come clean with those latent feelings for the object of your whimsical affection. Of course there are practical and perhaps legal repercussions concerning more grandiose schemes, but it is the seemingly easy acts which we all too frequently yank ourselves out of.

Perhaps then my first resolution will be to spend less of my time vegetating on virtual celebrity trash Web sites and more time doing.

I should not be sitting in my dorm room scrolling through Perez Hilton’s inconsequential name-calling when I could lug myself outside in the (almost) springtime weather and play guitar on a grassy knoll.

Instead of perusing this past week’s red carpet hits and misses I should be going on midnight journeys to Wawa with a few other brave souls, screaming Sublime and linking arms all the way down Lancaster Avenue.

I offer such life decisions up as options, not mandates; but I assume that somewhere in all of us there is some attainable end we prevent ourselves from making ours for the taking. That said, my ranting has gone on long enough.

Go do something.


Matilda Swartz is a freshman communication major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at [email protected].