Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stars As Brief Candles

I never got around to thanking my parents for not endowing me with any special genes, physical, mental or artistic. It was enough to know that I wasn't a good for nothing kid. Beyond that I have no ambition to rise above the ordinary. Pity the celebrities in our midst.

Of course many of them are also good-for nothing kids, grown up. Early adulation must be the least diagnosed handicap of our times. The suffering of self-delusion can be acute or chronic. Maybe we should hold telethons for these folks where others so inflicted could perform, to catch them from the long fall from grace. For every star in descent there is another in ascendance.

To be put on a pedestal and then put under it must be a painful procedure. Shakespeare said of glory, " it enlarges like a circle in water, till by broad spreading disperses itself to naught."

We have our athletes who generally flame out before they know it and our personalities in the entertainment field who are often little more than a pretty face. The cult of idolatry has also reached into politics, at times indistinguishable from the aforementioned, as with Sarah Palin whose claim on our attention rests with the anticipation of her next gaffe.

From JFK on to Barack Obama we have a way of projecting our pent up wishes and dreams on men turned into icons. No-Drama Obama has resisted this trap but such are the demands in a mass society to stage media events, at least while campaigning.

Those who adorn magazine covers are our royalty whose antecedents in ancient societies proclaimed their chosen for an annual reign and then offered them as human sacrifice to propitiate the gods.

The constant in all this seems to be the human need for transcendence, to extend or expand our measly lives for one greater and beyond. The ritual is complete when we partake of their fall. The hero has a thousand faces but may be nothing more than a consumer product which must be exposed, un-made and consumed.

I ought to separate these perishable kings and queens for a day from the deserving men and women whose achievements rightfully endure. We know who they are and the term, celebrity, is no proper fit. On the noise-meter they score low and probably have fewer friends on Facebook than the average high school dropout.

Our current age of celebrity has blunted our discernment and reasoning. We have trouble prioritizing what we had for breakfast from the latest breakthrough in mapping the human genome.

Given the fissures and disfigurement of society we've come to rely on celebs, interchangeable as they may be, to smile back at us. Through the glitter of L.E.D. lights we can no longer see the firmament but there is always the constancy of these other stars to assure us that all's well enough to get us through the night.

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