Leave it to Elizabeth Scalia to put into words so perfectly what I’ve been thinking about the life and death of Jimmy Buffett:
There was something poignant in Buffett’s passing at the start of Labor Day weekend, when the days are growing shorter and the flip flops and Hawaiian shirts must be put away along with our fantasies of living on a beach, responsible for nothing beyond bringing dessert to the next get-together. Sweaters come out in the evening and time seems suddenly too valuable to waste away searching for misplaced meaning, too fleeting to reclaim the misspent days which, valued too late, are forever lost.
Some dismiss the laid-back island-escapism of Jimmy Buffett as being something hedonistic or uncaring. The world is heavy with material and spiritual misery on every continent — we see it daily in the headlines — and from that perspective he might seem to have been just another fizzy artist, part beach bum, part vagabond, rolling easily between a beer keg and a few cocktails capped with frivolous little umbrellas while singing of hazy nights and strange tattoos (how it got there, he hadn’t a clue!).
Buffett’s biggest hit, “Margaritaville,” celebrates a life lived in meandering dissipation; its plaintive chorus sounds only mildly regretful as the narrator wonders who is to blame for his under-achieving days until, in the final refrain he comes clean:
“Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault.”
If you didn’t know that Buffett was raised Catholic, the last line is a dead giveaway.
That nearly everything in our lives will eventually reveal a component of self-accountability at its core is something every Catholic can identify with. Such recognition is a gift that comes to us not from so-called “Catholic guilt,” but from a formed Catholic conscience.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord …