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I shy away from opining on the world of celebrity or pop culture, especially on those in the lime light who have burned bright and flamed out far too early. They are, tragically, far too many and frequent and have legions of followers far more adept in commentary than I. So why am I compelled to say something about Whitney Houston?

When I first heard Whitney, she struck a joyous chord, a call to the angels (however you describe them). There was hope and wonder, not only in her gift, but in her music. That she lost that in her life makes me sad in my heart.

Naturally, I wonder where her family and friends were when she was in trouble with living in this world, with her marriage and the outrageous pressures of fame. But more than that, I wonder what terrible hurt and sadness drove her down when there were so many reasons to look up.

I have no answers. Goddess knows, I have enough of my own demons and fears to last a dozen lifetimes. And I have my modest talents, too. We all have our gifts and our insecurities. They battle back and forth and give us cold-sweat nightmares and rocky Everest highs. But for a woman with such gifts, who was touched with so much and touched so many, that Whitney’s  family, friends—someone!—could’t reach out years ago and see her sadness, help her, simply buggers the imagination. There are the impresarios, the agents and producers, but where are the people who grab hold of the elbow and say, “Stop!” Who ask where the pain lies and if they can do anything to salve it.

There is a celebration of the eccentric/slightly mad in our artists and writers. And yet we thrive on their schadenfreude, filling tabloid coffers with our vicarious thrills. Empathy is lost in that sense of being able feel superior to those who “have it all.”

And in the process, we push talent down, drive fear up. And in the end, there is only terrible sadness.