Two things cross my mind about Roger Ebert on the occasion of his death.
The first is that Roger Ebert was both a critic and an enthusiast. In his writing and his speaking about movies, his optimism about movies always shone through. He was rooting for movies to be good, and he was looking for things to like about them without ever overlooking their flaws. There was joy and love in his work, not just for the work itself but for the subject of his critique. And that was a wonderful thing.
He never felt the need to denigrate work in order to prove that he knew something we did not. However large his ego was or was not, Roger Ebert never let it get in the way of expressing his love for the movies, and he never allowed cynicism to encroach on his work or self-expression. That is something to consider for anyone who does anything. Unapologetic joy is a wondrous thing.
The second thing about Roger Ebert is that his life became an illustration of the hopefulness of human progress. Were it not for the advent of the internet, Roger Ebert’s voice would have been silenced when he first got sick. Thanks to what humans achieved technologically, the world got to experience the greatness – perhaps the height – of Roger Ebert’s work for years in a format – because of a format – that did not exist when his career began.
His greatest contribution may have been made after he got sick, after his professional life might otherwise have been dashed were it not for the progress made during the time that he lived. For all the dehumanizing and troubling things about advanced technology, Roger Ebert was a living, thriving exhibition of the ways in which things that are new can restore and invigorate things and people whom we might otherwise have lost before they were through contributing.