We would all like to believe we are firmly in favor of getting something for nothing, of being on the receiving end of the ultimate great deal. But the truth is we have become something of a cynical society, suspicious of the worth of something being offered for free.
It’s a shame, because sometimes worth is not quantifiable. Sometimes there is no scale or metric, nothing that might be paid or offered in trade that can adequately measure worth.
Sometimes the worth has little to do with how something is constructed or materials used. Some things can never be worth their weight in gold because they carry no weight, at least not physically.
Be they experiences, images or performances, some of the greatest gifts we will ever receive will be those things we stumble upon.
Think about the first time you heard a favorite song or saw that film you can always return to. Chances are you can’t remember what – if anything – you paid for that record or ticket. The experience of discovery was free.
I bring this up because that’s how I feel about the work of Augusta author, poet and raconteur Starkey Flythe, who died Sept. 13 at age 78.
Truth be told, I never paid a dime for the Flythe poems and stories I read and (without much effort) learned to love.
But that did not mean I loved them any less. I first began to seek and read Flythe’s work not because I heard it was excellent or insightful or even entertaining. Those were things I learned for myself.
No, the reason I sought out his work was he was a writer, from Augusta, writing about things that felt closer to my frame of reference than Tobacco Road.
His was the language of a man observing Southern culture as it once existed, as it transitioned and what, ultimately, it might become.
For Flythe, people and place were never separate entities, rather they were parts of the same whole, an eternal synchronous relationship that required both elements to fully function. His was the rarest of gifts, a gift I’m not ashamed to admit I envied. His ability to convey so much so simply was true art.
While we were not friends, I did meet Flythe a few times. I recall, during our first meeting, he told me he was familiar with my writing. I, in response, stammered.
That’s sort of how I have felt since his death. I do not know how to describe Flythe as an artist, writer or man. All I can offer is my admiration and thanks.
The truth is, despite my efforts to write around this painful truth, I have no words – none that are adequate at least. What’s more, I feel like Flythe, an expert in describing the pathos of living, would have.
If only he were here to write them.