Roger Ebert, who died yesterday, began blogging in earnest some years back after cancer robbed him of speech. He racked up millions of hits and every post generated hundreds of comments. I’ve written about him a few times. From March of 2010:
I discovered his blog a few months ago and was enchanted – a fine writer, a profoundly human man and very very brave. He’s wasting away from cancer – can no longer speak or eat. He doesn’t even have a jaw anymore. And yet he blogs. And he cares. And he has his finger on the pulse of the humanity that is us. I wish I knew him.
Roger Ebert’s Journal was much more than movies; while he chronicled the challenges of his illness he also wrote – always elegantly – of so many other things – of politics, music, art, children and cooking.
He and I were born in the same year, so when he wrote of his own youth, which he often did – as often happens with those battling terminal illnesses – I went back in time with him. Like in this passage from a very recent post titled “How I am a Roman Catholic”:
The nuns at St. Mary’s were Dominicans. They lived in a small square convent behind the school, holding six nuns (some taught two grades) and a cook and their housekeeping nun, who kept a sharp eye trained on us through her screen door. We had humble playground equipment, a swing set and two basketball hoops. Our principal sport was playing King of the World. This involved two boys standing on a log, each trying to push the other off. The housekeeper would open the screen door and shout, “If you break your necks, you have only yourselves to blame.”
It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum”–“On Capital and Labor.”
I’ll miss him and his writing but I’ll go back now and again to the archives. There is wisdom there.