March 8, 2017- Adulation
“I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too?…” –Emily Dickinson
Our country has developed and perhaps even perfected the cult of celebrity. The rich and the famous have a powerful influence on almost every aspect of our culture, whether or not they have insight, knowledge, or even care.
Movie stars and athletes, it seems, are especially raised to the heights of celebrity. They are generally attractive and rich and commonly lead flamboyant and extravagant lives. Most often they are good at what they do but not always, sometimes they are charismatic as well.
Does the bestowal of celebrity say more about the bestowers than about the receivers? Yes, I think it says everything about “us,” and not as much about “them.”
Projection is the psychological term. Vicarious living, wishful thinking, fantasy, and pipe dreams are other terms. In some way, we want to be like them so we celebrate them. At least someone has achieved “greatness” even if we can’t, we might tell ourselves.
Somehow we don’t seem to consider that the very celebrity we bestow also robs them of freedom and normalcy. Just think of Princess Diana. They live in a hothouse environment of unreality and thus commonly become quite odd and often, so it seems from what we read, not happy.
And truth be told, a few celebrities rise to the occasion and become genuinely integrated people of remarkable character.
For my money, Emily Dickenson (quoted above) had it right. She became a celebrity long after she was gone. Her life was quiet and peaceful, just the way she wanted it. No paparazzi in Amherst, Massachusetts in mid-nineteenth century.
Bestowing celebrity on those we admire and respect is not bad; it is a most human trait. But why not make your own list of celebrities? Whom do you want to celebrate? And just how will you do that? List the names of a few people you appreciate and want to celebrate―living or dead, famous or infamous, acquaintance or stranger, local or foreign. Then celebrate them.
For encouragement, look up the whole of Dickinson’s poem. She captured the idea, with joy, in eight lines.