How we reacted to Prince’s death says a lot about how we think

Post Malone said it best: “You gon’ love me when I’m gone.”

Early Thursday morning, the world lost an iconic artist. Singer Prince was found dead in his Minneapolis home due to unknown causes, according to CNN.

We saw Prince as a musical innovator, a no-holds-barred trendsetter and visionary.

Also, his music sold quite well.

According to Billboard, Prince had sold over 100 million albums worldwide throughout his career.

However, Prince’s album sales unusually soared just after breaking news of his death. By as early as 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon after he passed, The Very Best of Prince, 2001, jumped to the top Itunes best-seller list, according to TIME magazine. This spike in sudden interest continues, emblematic of a deeper issue.

Why do we appreciate artists more after they’ve passed?

Prince isn’t the only one. Michael Jackson’s career was in decline at the time of his death in 2009. Jackson’s last album release while alive, 2001’s Invincible, was considered a commercial failure, according to a CNBC article. Within just a week after Jackson’s memorial service, sales of his catalog of solo albums spiked 37 percent from the previous week, from 800,000 to 1.1 million, according to Billboard. Similarly, Elvis and Whitney Houston remain top-selling artists years after their deaths.

We hear of a dead artist and we respond with awakened interests, which begs the question, does this way of thinking also apply to those closest to us: family, friends, lovers, even acquaintances?

The loss of loved ones and unfulfilled relationships was the most common regret among respondents to a telephone survey by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

As Anne Frank wrote in her diary, dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.

Regret is not only stronger than gratitude; it’s easier to remember to practice. The most basic things we should appreciate are generally the hardest to remember to be grateful for.

When people die, we feel guilty for not appreciating them enough while they were alive. Death is a magnifying glass that draws attention to the detail in life, to appreciate the beauty of the present. And yet no matter how close or often death strikes to our hearts, that focused gratitude blurs in the dizzying rush of everyday choices.

Exercising gratitude blocks negative emotions like those of regret. “It makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted,” according to an article by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Without taking time to really look at what we have, it’s easy to assume it will always be here. We often believe giving thanks can wait.

Though he received more recent appreciation after death than in some years prior, Prince still left a legacy worth noting.

His artistic genius was made apparent as he mastered any instrument he thought necessary to perfect his craft. What we were given was original, high quality, feel-good music.

To stay relevant for nearly four decades would be tough for most artists to do, but Prince did it with finesse. And yet, many people have waited until his death to make a connection to the work he left behind.

Time is only wasted if it’s not well spent. Before his death, the world had 57 years to appreciate Prince.

Love people, not their tombstones.