Culture At Large

From rebellion to... responsibility?

Andy Rau

Ran across an interesting book review today of Sam Anderson's Five Lives, which charts the lives of five famous cultural rebels: Arthur Rimbaud, Emily Post, Hugh Hefner, John Lennon, and Eminem. It's a motley crew, but their life trajectories share many elements in common. All lacked attentive fathers in their youth, and all burst onto the scene with shocking or challenging moral messages and then struggled for the rest of their lives in the shadow of their initial outbursts. From the review:

All five of these figures warmed their hands around a common fire: the public performance of morality. Fatherlessness seems to have frozen them in a kind of permanent adolescence. They answered adult questions (How should one behave?) prematurely and exaggeratedly, then stubbornly clung to those answers for life. Their careers were built entirely on bad manners—whether excoriating them, glorifying them, or reveling in them. They sacrificed their lives to oversize visions of righteous living. And while they all have their own special failures and triumphs—that’s what makes them fit for biography—the saddest figures, to me, for precisely opposite reasons, are Rimbaud and Hefner. The French poet burned through his world-stomping revolutionary phase in less time than it takes most people to finish college. By 19, he was facing a whole second lifetime of pure sad, unheroic frustration: He wound up in Africa, trying unsuccessfully to get rich, and died of very painful cancer at 37. Hefner, on the other hand, still clings to his adolescence. At 82, he brags of being a “babe magnet” and collects young platinum-blonde “girlfriends.”

Sounds like a fascinating book. And it makes me wonder about the firebrands of Christian history and how their lives played out. Who's your favorite Christian "rebel"--and after they arrived loudly on the scene of Christendom, how did they live out their lives? Did they quietly work in pursuit of their original message? Did they flame out dramatically? Or spend the rest of their lives slowly backing down from the message or theology they preached in their (spiritual) youth?

unrelated note: This is the 2000th post on TC! Thanks to everyone who's read and contributed thus far!

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Art, News & Politics, Media