Friday, 6 February 2009

Celebrity Lives - Know and be known?

It may not be an original thought - but the other day I caught sight of the front page of the Sun detailing Jade Goody's cancer. This set me thinking about the role of celebrities and celebrity gossip. Village life, even today as my friends in villages tell me, is a place where everyone knows everybody else, and no one can have any secrets, yet in big towns and cities this is not the case. There are theories about why this is (why can you never Google something when you want it?) - noting that in large towns people avoid looking at others - you only need to travel on the tube to see this in action - and yet perhaps there is something there - we long to know and be known - and yet we are also drawn towards anonymity.

Celebrities - particularly those who are primarily famous for being famous - sacrifice their anonymity in return for money - and yet there is nothing mutual about it - for although they are known they do not know.

Is this good? At least people will know someone. Or is it bad because it allows us to know without being known? I will opt for bad - I think that it is actually the being known - and accepted for what we are - that matters. If celebrities and soap operas allow us to get our "fix" of "knowing" without having to be known then we are the poorer for it.

St Benedict saidsomething similar (far more concisely) "The fifth step of humility is that we do not conceal from the abbot or prioress any sinful thoughts entering our hearts, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly." Joan Chittister in her commentary on this says "The struggles we hide, psychologists tell us, are the struggles that consume us. Benedict's instruction, centuries before an entire body of research arose to confirm it, is that we must cease to wear our masks, stop pretending to be perfect and accept the graces of growth that can come to us from the wise and gentle hearts of people of quality around us." (The book is serialised here over 4 months and the passage above can be seen in roughly February, June and October).
If we avoid being known then we are free to maitain those masks - both to others and to ourselves - which prevent us from growing.

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