Andy Griffith’s death — at least for Baby Boomers — is another sign of our mortality. And a reminder of what we are, mostly.
As with other notable pop culture figures of our youth — Johnny Unitas comes to mind — the death of Andy Griffith this week reminds us of how far removed we are from our youth, how inexorable time is, a whisper to us that we are aging.
His death reminds us, too, of just how far removed we are from what seemed a simpler time, the time of our youth, a time when the pressures of globalization were in a distant future. A time when right and wrong seemed simpler to discern.
We enjoyed the gentle humor of the “Andy Griffith Show,” and reruns of it often cause us to contrast (and lament) the coarseness of today with that gentleness.
And it’s true: Our pop culture is light years worse than what we saw on Griffith’s show. Anger and sarcasm are the hallmarks of humor in today’s entertainment, with little room for deeper human emotions. Maybe that’s one reason why Andy’s show endures, a longing for people who treated each other with love and respect, who weren’t afraid of being sincere.
But here’s the good news: Andy Griffith lives.
Get beyond the sensationalism of “reality” TV and the incessant chatter of cable “news” and you’ll find Andy Griffith all around you.
You see him in your home, where you find your loving parents or kids. The mom taking time out of her busy day to console her daughter. The dad coming home from work to play catch in the street with his son. The boss giving you a little note of encouragement. The stranger holding the door for you as you try to maneuver a cart into a store. A brief conversation with a total stranger at the coffee shop. A friend offering help as a loved one is dying.
For a variety of reasons, too often we look to the heart of human darkness. There’s plenty of that to see, after all. But what the “Andy Griffith Show” celebrated is another eternal part of the human heart, the part that extends its love to others.
That part is eternal, even though it seems to be ignored. But it lives. The next time you watch a rerun of Andy Griffith, take some comfort in that.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.