This is probably the Nth post about Steve Irwin’s passing, but it’s something I just can’t stop thinking about. Actually, it kind of bothers me that it just leaves me so utterly bummed out. Don’t get me wrong, it is a textbook definition of “The good die young”. Even on the internet, salacious mutterings about Darwin awards and other such jokes are met with sadness and derision. For the country of Australia itself, it’s like Superman died. Never mind the work he did to preserve majestic wildlife the world over, Steve Irwin’s “Crikey!” catchphrase and Kahkis created the identity of a nation. The way he used that identity to support his conservation work is model for engineering positive human behavior.
So why has it still got me down? I never felt this bad when Jim Henson or Carl Sagan passed away. It could be that this is just the straw that broke the camels back. It’s been a terrible year in terms of mortality for my friends and family, not the least of which was my Grandfather passing away this spring. Seeing some of my favorite fictional characters in “Legend of Galactic Heroes” and “Firefly” cack this year probably didn’t help matters. However, I tend to agree with my mother (who has been a Nurse for over 30 years) that death is not necessarily bad. It is a transition to a better place, away from this world of pain and suffering. I don’t really need to feel sorry for people who in one sense are doing better for themselves. And mourning fictional characters is just bloody stupid.
But then I thought back to when I first heard the news that the Crocodile Hunter was dead. My first thought was a FedEx commercial he did a few years ago. In the ad, he had been bitten by a deadly snake, but fortunately the antivenin was coming via FedEx. When an assistant told him that the antidote was sent by another courier, he promptly keeled over, dead. It was funny at the time, but now it made me realize that I was feeling partly responsible for Steve’s death. It was like Salieri in Peter Schaffer’s “Amadeus” pushing Mozart to exhaustion. By enjoying Steve Irwin’s antics, and marveling at every attempt he made to wrestle the world’s deadliest animals, I was encouraging a lifestyle that resulted in a freak accident that claimed the world’s premier conservationist. It’s been forming a bitter little ball of self-disgust that I can’t help but lean on like a sore tooth.
Come to think of it, that probably ranks up there with the fictional character mourning. It’s not logical, but I’ll bet that nagging guilt is on the minds of more than one crocodile hunter fan. In knowing this, I’m little more content to be where I am right now. The Geographic Information System technology I’m working with right now is used in conservation efforts, and some day I may find myself working in that capacity as both atonement and tribute to a true wildlife warrior.