In Memory of Kevin Smith
Many people on this planet lost a great leader and inspiration with the passing of Kevin Smith on Wednesday, 14 August 2013. Kevin Smith, the pioneering radio talk show host and upcoming rock artist, was a good friend of mine who died of complications related to a heart attack. While we all value our friends, we value some people in ways that transcend friendship. The gift which they offer humanity by simply Being who they are becomes inseparable from the memories of any and all personal interactions that we have with them. They define themselves in our hearts by the magnitude of their presence, their spirit, their vision. Kevin Smith was one of those people. Most people know of him through his efforts as a radio host who brought a needed level of maturity and calm to subjects often thought of as fringe by the mainstream media. His interviews with guests on his show acted as a picture frame to portray subjects ranging from deep sea exploration, remote viewing, UFOs, and extraterrestrial life with a level of respect and balanced depth of coverage that few can match in the today's world of broadcast journalism.
Kevin was also a technical wizard. He personally set-up and managed a complex collection of computers and other equipment where he recorded his guests on high-quality video using Skype. This was no easy accomplishment since it involved a delicate balance of machinery and advanced software. His show looked like it was run by a studio with lots of backup. But it was all him, and no one else. He edited his final videos using Sony Vegas Pro, blending an assortment of marvelously chosen rock musical pieces during the breaks that highlighted upcoming new artists willing to have their works showcased without requiring royalty payments. The breaks in his show were as interesting to listen to as the guests. He also took great care in how he set up his own presence on the video for his show. You never saw him in his living room. Rather, he constructed a portable black screen that he placed behind himself, and then he arranged the lighting so that his own image literally "popped" out at you. I was so impressed by his arrangement that I asked him for help in setting up my own interview studio that I would use when I was a guest. Web cam interviews never looked so good on a technical level as those of Kevin Smith's. I once asked him why he did not have other people do some of the tech stuff for him, and he told me that he learned not to waste "expects" on other people, as in "expectations" that they would always be there to help him create his vision. What he was to contribute to this world was his vision, and there was no one else capable of creating it but himself, a point applicable to everyone and well worth remembering.
Kevin loved rock music, infectiously so. Within the past year, he took about a month (during October and November of 2012) to study guitar 10-12 hours a day. I have never seen someone learn how to play the guitar so well in so short a time. He immediately thereafter helped form two rock bands, Terranomaly and BentBrain. Together with his band mates from Terranomaly, he created his own record label. They ferociously leveraged the social media potential of the Internet to successfully spread the word of their music. And he had lots of music; he wrote two rock songs a week. By August 2013, a major studio offered to sign the group and send them on tour. It was all to begin in just a few weeks. Not bad for a 60 year old brand new rocker.
As was typical of Kevin, when he did anything new, he did it with an emersion that was complete. In this new rock phase of his life, he completely changed the way he looked. He grew his hair long, and began to wear a fashionable beard. He bought a new wardrobe, and started wearing an assortment of great looking wide-brim hats, especially on screen. How many people of any age can reinvent themselves so thoroughly in such a short period of time and in such an interesting way? He was ready to rock, and the music industry and world was ready to rock with him.
If I may be so bold, I would like to offer a suggestion as to how Kevin Smith would like to be remembered. I could be wrong, but my thought is that he would like to be remembered not just for his radio show, or his music, but rather for the way he lived his life. This was a man who never let anyone tell him how to live his life. The rules of society that state that someone must act a certain way at a certain age simply did not relate to Kevin. The rules bounced off him like water from the back of a duck. That was his great gift to the world. He showed us all, by his own example, that it is possible to live a life free from the widespread disease of conformity. Conformity is probably the most serious disease affecting our world today. Indeed, it arguably kills more people than any other disease. Every time we let others dictate either overtly or subconsciously how we should live our lives, we have already died. We exist on this planet only to experience the exuberance of Beingness. Once we surrender who we are to the norms of the collective, we no longer exist as ourselves. We lose ourselves in the expectations of others. Well, Kevin never wasted the "expects" of others on himself. He was a man who lived life on his own terms. That is the true reason why he was a visionary. It was never about what he did; it was always about who he was.
If there is one cautionary tale that would be good to mention regarding Kevin Smith's life, it is this. He was a chain smoker, and that more than anything else is probably what killed him. At the moment of his greatest reinvention of himself, his heart could not take the pounding any longer. For those young people reading this, including some of my own relatives, take this lesson to heart. Be yourself as no one else on this planet can be. Thrive with the joy of knowing that you truly are unique and that no one else can make your mark on this world. But also take care of your body. Although each of our personalities, Being, is immortal, our physical bodies must one day come to an end. For Kevin, it was only the conforming pressures of others who influenced him to begin smoking so many years ago, and once the chemical addiction began, breaking it was the gorilla that could never be shaken off his back. I think Kevin would not mind me advising all people today, especially the younger generation, by warning that the tobacco companies assert their conforming pressures through the addictive chemicals that they mix with their toxic tobacco brew. I truly believe that Kevin would want others to be free from this trap. Kevin Smith's true message is to live a free life. He guides us who remain on this planet with his great successes, but also with his failure to protect his body from the ravages of smoking. He would want us to learn from all parts of his experience, for there is nothing that people want more in their lives than to be happy as a result of living unique lives in states of total inner freedom.
Courtney Brown, 15 August 2013
Permission granted to re-post this entire open letter without alteration in any and all venues.