Age of Celebrity

Stillness

I don’t know what made me write that post but I am glad I did as it provided Parvati-ji an opportunity to share a link to some interesting thoughts. I was also reading Flavorpill’s recent piece about 20th century’s most reclusive writers and J.D.Salinger’s obit in the NY Times.

It would be sufficient to read the second link above as it does discuss a similar issue in great depth. I actually had a poem to write about this but thought that I had written too many in the recent past. I loved a sentence in that article: “Virginity is classically the outward sign of spiritual inviolability, of a self untouched by the world, a soul that has preserved its integrity by refusing to descend into the chaos and self-division of sexual and social relations”. I recently amused a young friend when he asked me “Do you like dogs?” and I replied, “Most definitely. Anything non-human has my attention.”

Today’s generation (and I would consider everyone below the age of 50-60 as members of this generation) simply cannot stay alone. When I read somewhere that torture mechanisms included keeping a person in isolation, I wondered (and at the age of 12-13 I wondered a lot) what was so torturous about that. I thought it would be rather normal with the person singing songs and perfecting his voice, creating stories and poems and most importantly, introspecting and learning from previous deeds and re-affirming one’s previous decisions based on sound principles (Come, let’s away to prison; // We two alone will sing like birds I’ th’ cage). Recently I counted my book collection (non-technical) till it crossed the 800 tome mark and figured out that if I read them leisurely, I would take 20 years to complete all of them (some are simply too huge) and after 20 years I would most certainly want to re-read the ones which I had read 20 years ago. That would amount to another 20 years! That takes care of 40 years of my life. That afternoon was my happiest in a very long time. And all this in the solitude of my room. And that is when I considered the scenario of not telling anyone about this. What indeed happens to joy if there is none to share it with? Does it lose its lucre!?

I used this question as my lens to view motivations for most action in this world. Would someone become a general manager if there was no one to notice that progress? Would someone hit six sixes in a cricket match if there was no broadcast mechanism to tell the world about it and no newspaper to make a loud noise about it? Consider the complete closure of the advertising industry! No Rs. 210 crore for Dhoni who has done nothing more than play a game occasionally well and get married. Stupidity would be a lot more localised and offer little inspiration for other fools. Do I send my child to painting classes so that he wins the competition in school and make me proud!? What if he alone participated in it?

I realise I am taking the discussion along a different track, but I consider it vital. While the articles above discuss about the reluctance for being alone, I wish to discuss why people cannot enjoy for enjoyments sake. They all probably merge at a point in the self, but that we shall arrive at in another post. I feel people consider an achievement worthless if it doesn’t have the sanction and cheers of many more people. Why else would America have so many thousand Halls of Fame? Why else would every single person who can write rush to publish his work? Why will a dancer (and I know a few such specimens) not care about realising the complete beauty of a form but worry more about the dance reviews and how many places have invited her to repeat the same piece over and over again? Why will every sportsman care so much about being a celebrity and not about playing remarkably better than the previous season (do we hear about what a sportsman is doing to ensure that his average score doubles?)?

Because the beauty of an act has been stamped under the incessant cries averring that joy and celebration cannot be done alone. People are depressed (or are told that they must be) if they spend their birthdays alone. People are shocked when they hear that someone simply sat by a lake reading a book throughout the weekend (I would give my right arm to have such a weekend). I had once backpacked to Ooty with no reservations made and a bag full of books and little else. People thought I was angry, depressed, sad and everything other than sensible for having done that.

While one reads this post, one might imagine this to hardly be a significant thing, but consider a whole month where your joys and sorrows and achievements are private, your plans and goals are private, your wounds and accolades are private, your satisfied meal is known to none other than yourself and you already think that I am signing you up for a torturous month of living like a recluse. No! You will still be the same and joke with everyone and eat with everyone and travel in a bus with everyone, except that your life’s details are known to none.

I nursed this dream of being published. I sent out my articles (which I haven’t yet put up on this blog) to renowned magazines and they all got rejected. I didn’t feel sad but kept wondering why I wouldn’t get published. I was willing to buy the “Your writing is pathetic” reason but not in the light of stuff that was getting published. Soon I realised that it was quite against my grain. I agree with Salinger: To write and not be published, feels far more honest. There is no pretense about wanting to be a “writer”. You simply are that. I read this post now as I type it and realise that anyone could have written this, but that is pointless enough to keep me past my bedtime and have me type away at my computer. Now I automatically delete all calls for submissions not because I consider it wrong to publish but simply realise that it is not something I am comfortable with (sour grapes?).

People ask, why shouldn’t you be popular if you are good at something? Why shouldn’t I share my joys with the 2252 friends I have on Facebook? Even if it something like “Sunday mornings are so lazzzy”? And here is where I wish to represent all the writers (including the authors of the links above including myself): Aloneness is choice and loneliness is a reaction. If you refrain from making the choice out of fear for the reaction, then it is a matter of concern for you. JK talks along similar lines about boredom and escaping from it (without understanding it) towards entertainment and company and anything that can keep you busy and unconscious. If you are good, you probably will be popular (at least after you are dead, like Van Gogh). But neither is being good nor enjoying the goodness of being thus a collective affair. You cannot vote someone into feeling good about something though that is what is happening nowadays!

The age of celebrity has caused people to fear the consequences of not being heard and known and connected, of not finding “Likes” to reaffirm our choices and tastes, of being the only one to enjoy a quiet evening on the terrace. In the process, a lot is lost and nothing substantial gained. The works that endure the tests of time, have all been created in solitude (Tao Te Ching, Pieta, Hamlet, etc.) and great saints and hermits have found what most of the world craves for, in solitude. Though I do not wish to fight a case for solitude, I wonder how irreversible the effects of the age of celebrity are on the human psyche. For one who cannot be happy in himself, cannot find happiness in many like himself.

Other Links, you might find interesting:

  1. http://zenhabits.net/solitude/
  2. http://www.theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/
  3. http://zenhabits.net/creative-habit/
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6 thoughts on “Age of Celebrity

  1. Human beings are of late being sucked into the whirlpool of every form of triteness and hollowness with the aid of all instruments of technology.

    Wasn't William Deresiewicz's “The End of Solitude” revealing, insightful and quite comprehensive in what he wanted to convey? I really liked it very much – it showed clearly the utter insanity of social life as it is today.

    Your post is logic and a lot of common sense. But solitude is scary to almost all in this world, and even to those hermits that seek it, maybe a perennial solitude sates and leads them to connect with stray animates that may be in their environment.

    Nice.

  2. Oh. And, the image is simply lovely. The colour of the pink blossoms above land with the bare tree in the reflection, the whole vibration of stillness in the trees, their reflections, and of course the man and his image, the piece of land itself. Stillness it is.

  3. I'm gonna make u jealous if what u said about having just one month of solitude is true πŸ˜€ *Thinking* Hmmm Yea, not one month but three weeks and a few days of perfect solitude. Bliss. That's what i had 'HAD' and I thank God for it. Alhamdollillah πŸ™‚ *My mom booked her ticket to India earlier than me. So I got to stay behind and relish my own cooking, slog with the cleaning and washing, dream alone, read alone, surf alone … u get the pic*

    What u say is very true. And well, thank God for solitude πŸ™‚ And I think, you might understand what I am talking about here : http://loveenaisha.blogspot.com/2010/07/entertainment.html – Well, it might interest you. Hopefully. InshaAllah πŸ™‚

    COmpletely agree with the last line which I think condenses everything u were talking about : “For one who cannot be happy in himself, cannot find happiness in many like himself.” Very well said.

  4. Dear P,
    Glad you liked the picture. Thank you for the link. Solitude is indeed scary to a man who fears going unnoticed. Which is why I raised the point about doing something without anyone knowing. E.g. making a huge charity but telling no one about it.

    Dear L,
    Lucky you! πŸ™‚ But I would like to have that month without anyone I know around me too. Like a residence at a village I have never been to. Will read your post asap…

    Dear W,
    πŸ™‚ Glad you liked it…

    Dear R,
    Isn't there always a side other than the one presented in this 3-D world? πŸ™‚ Yes, there is.

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