As I tuned in briefly to watch the really royal affair, fascinated by the bona fide pomp and circumstance, all sorts of questions swirled through this western wonderer’s fairly inquisitive mind. (ie. Where’s Harry? Isn’t Kate awesome? Isn’t Prince Louis the cutest? What would Diana think? Where’s the diversity? Does Prince Andrew still qualify to don the regal garb? And of course… where do they get those hats? Do they not know they’re crooked on their heads?)
But alas, I digress.
Intrigued by much, many caught my eye. But one made me think a little more.
As I watched Camilla Rosemary Shand then Parker Bowles then Duchess of Cornwall then Queen Consort to now (hopefully in the Palace’s eyes, just) Queen, the magnificence of the moment made me think of what she is known for.
The bigger question, no less, is are we known for singular moments? Sole seasons in life?
Or do we look at more?
Queen Camilla prompts an excellent question. As yesterday’s private promenade made its way to Buckingham’s public balcony, the masses ardently cheered for the newly crowned king and his bride. Is she known for being Queen? Or… in a respectful albeit inconvenient question… is she known for being one of so-called “three” in the King’s first marriage, the married woman who would have an ongoing affair with then Prince Charles while he was married to Princess Diana? Longtime royal watchers will attest that for many years, after the affair was a most poorly held secret, Camilla was known as one of the most hated women in Britain. Princess Diana’s tragic, untimely death, vilified Camilla even more.
So which is she most known for?
The villain or the victor? The devoted or the deceitful? The conniver or the Queen?
So that bigger question — and the one that’s relevant here, as it pertains to far more than the British royals — is: is it fair — wait — is it accurate to be known for only one thing? In other words, can we be known for more?
Ray Lewis is a very respected NFL Hall of Famer, after a successful career, marked by his contagious leadership. Inducted in 2018, he would begin by saying, “Oh, listen to me carefully. When God tells you something, believe Him. Listen to me. No matter the journey, oh, there’s too many ups and downs, but, boy, when you believe Him.” 18 years prior, Lewis was arrested and indicted on murder charges. He would later accept a plea deal helping him to avoid prison. He embraced what it means to be graciously given a second chance.
Robert Downey Jr. now enthusiastically enthralls millions as American superhero Iron Man. He is engaging, charismatic, and just downright fun to watch as Marvel’s movie star man. Little would one know of what his career previously entailed. Becoming a drug addict at age 8, his substance abuse would swell, spending much of his 20’s floundering and his 30’s arrested on drug-related charges, time in prison, and losing roles. He, too, is therefore, a story of redemption… one indeed for whom, should be known for more than one thing.
I think of this often in this whole cancel culture movement — this idea that it’s ok to shut down something or someone for a perceived wrong committed at one time in their life. In contemporary times, it’s a shutting down of present activity. In past times, it’s an erasing of history. It’s assuming they know all that we know now. It’s assuming only they (never we) make significant mistakes. And it’s assuming that singular moment, that sole season in life, is all they should ever be known for.
In October of 2011, Robert Downey Jr. was being honored at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards. Downey chose actor Mel Gibson, another who has had more than one shining and not so shining moment over the course of his career to introduce him. Gibson would publicly say of Downey, after his very public moral failing, that Downey was one of the first not to shun, but to reach out, to recognize that we are always about more. Downey would call and say to Gibson, “Hey, welcome to the club. Let’s go see what we can do to work on ourselves.”
What sweet wisdom it is to know that we are known for more… to know, too, that redemption can be the most beautiful thing.