Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Flamed out, leaving much too soon

Wick's World


When I heard of the untimely death of a Minnesota icon that once was known as an unnamable symbol and was referred to as the musician formerly known as Prince, my first thought was; we have another “Flameout.” Whether Prince died of an undetermined illness or an overdose of prescription pain medicine has no relevance for me. What is relevant is the fact that a talented human being left us much too early. How does each of us deal with that?

Over a decade ago I was fortunate to spend a week in the woods with the noted Jungian psychologist James Hillman. In 1997 Hillman published a book called "The Soul’s Code: In search of Character and Calling.”

Hillman states, “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As a force of fate ... an accompanying guide who remembers your call.”

Basically, I see this as his interpretation of the soul, which allows me to make sense of how, when and why people die when they do; especially the souls who make a huge impact on the world, in their communities or families. These souls came into the world to present the gifts they had to offer and then they left us much too soon.

The most intriguing part of “The Soul’s Code” was the chapter that spoke about a Minnesotan from Grand Rapids named Frances Gumm. Before she was 3 years old, this little girl performed on stage at her father’s movie theater. Later, she was discovered at the fancy opera house in downtown Aitkin. By the time this young performer beat out Shirley Temple for the lead role in “The Wizard of Oz,” she was known to the world as Judy Garland.

In her short life that spanned 47 years, Judy Garland spent over 40 of them in show business. She was married five times and divorced four. She often found herself high in fame and low in money. She continually found herself in debt, often owing the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. She drank like a fish and popped pills like it was the candy on the set of “The Wizard of Oz.”

In her autobiography, Judy Garland gave us a peek into her tormented soul. Like stars throughout the generations, her fame and fortune was mixed with booze and drugs.

“They’d give us pep pills,” she wrote. “Then they’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us cold with sleeping pills ... after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again.”

“That’s the way we worked, and that’s the way we got thin. That’s the way we got mixed up. And that’s the way we lost contact.”

Like the rock stars of my generation, from Prince to Elvis, and many in between, Judy Garland left her generation much too soon. James Hillman refers to her life as one who was destined to come into this world, dramatically offer her talents and then “flame out” at a way too early age.

Many rock stars of my generation flamed out 20 years younger than Judy Garland. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain all died unexpected deaths at age 27. Hillman would say their time was up. The first four flamed out, essentially committing suicide by drug overdose while Cobain used a gun. They were all talented souls who came onto this earth for a short time, expounded enough endowment of their gift to affect the masses, and then flamed out by dying much too soon.

Lily Tomlin once said, “What if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be as children? I wonder what it would be like to live in a world full of ballerinas and firemen and truck drivers.”

We are obviously not all ballerinas, firemen and truck drivers. The world is filled with souls who represent all facets of life. Our life is our gift and what we do with it is our gift to the world. I judge other lives the same way as I see my life. In the end, it is not how long one lives; it is how one lives their life that counts.


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