Monday, November 07, 2011
I was sad to hear of the death of "60 Minutes" commentator, Andy Rooney, who passed away on Friday, November 4th. Some people didn't like his style or what he had to say, but many did. I was a fan. I had listened to his closing essays for years, and even tried to emulate his style in college when I was a journalism student.
What I also liked about Mr. Rooney's writing was that he was true to himself. He spoke his mind and he didn't flip flop. He was a "what you see is what you get" kind of individual, and I've always been attracted to that type of person. But moreover, I liked his wit, and his everyman approach to life. He could make sharpening a pencil interesting. Or at least make us think twice about it. He could make us think twice about almost anything. That was his gift.
It's not easy to put into words the thoughts that are in your head. Some people are good at telling jokes and stories, but try writing them down, or performing to groups of people and having an impact. Mr. Rooney's words and thoughts were not so much sophisticated or unique, and he never won a Nobel Prize -- though he did win numerous awards honoring his work -- but he had the gift of storytelling. Most of the time he talked about average things that "we the people" often think about, wonder about, and might write about if we had the right tools -- or the guts. He had all the right tools and didn't appear to care much about what other people thought.
I feel like I grew up on Andy Rooney. I listened to him when I was in my 20s just as much as I did in my 30s and 40s. I don't know what that says about me, but maybe it's my foundation as a journalist, my curiosity about the world and what makes it and people tick, and my need to write my thoughts down. Perhaps that's the link that kept my attention all these years. Curiosity, I think, is at the heart of what makes good writers. We like to ask questions because we are innately curious about what makes our world go round. Which is not to say I group myself in the category of writers like Mr. Rooney, but I definitely group myself in the category of the innately curious.
To write something or say something of interest doesn't necessarily take a degree in higher education or higher intellect. I think it takes a way of thinking and looking at the world. And a good imagination doesn't' hurt. Look at J.K. Rowling. I wish I could scribble a fantastical story on a coffee shop napkin and turn it into a wonderful best-selling novel...well, maybe I can.
But I digress...I was thinking that in some ways Andy Rooney was one of the best bloggers of his generation. He just did it on television. He gave us weekly anecdotes that made us think, whether we agreed or not, and sometimes provoked controversy, which made some turn the channel. But for me, I tuned in regularly. It didn't matter what the subject. Rooney turned his thoughts into words and used those words to illustrate his views on whatever he felt like talking about at the time--and he was good at it.
I read that Mr. Rooney really loved his job. He must have. How else could he have worked until shortly before his death, at age 92. I read he spent more than 60 years at CBS, and 30 of those years as a writer and producer having written over 1,000 essays. That's a passion for writing. But I think that's also a passion for living. And he certainly lived a long life. Rest in peace Mr. Rooney. And thanks for the inspiration.