pedestalThis week, my favorite morning sports talk show guy, Colin Cowherd, was commenting on the interview of Lance Armstrong by Oprah Winfrey that will air later today.  The media publicity machine has been working overtime to leak just enough information to draw in the rubes (he confesses to doping) without giving away the whole story (how complete is his confession?).   This is, of course, the Feeding Frenzy Phase of the Celebrity Adulation Cycle, where we lionize a flawed human being, building him into a larger than human figure, then tear him apart when we discover he’s human after all.    Cowherd is a realist.  He’s not surprised when an athlete, particularly one in a sport known for cheating, cheats then lies about it.  His biggest criticism of Armstrong is that he ruined the lives of other cyclists to protect his legend and, in the end, he says we should never be surprised when the human beings we adulate turn out to be human.   As a person who’s followed Armstrong from the beginning, I’m not surprised but disappointed.  The man was a genuine inspiration to cancer survivors and raised millions through LiveStrong.  At least he did something to earn his celebrity.   What have people like Paris Hilton and Brody Jenner done to deserve the public’s adulation except provide sure fodder for the Feeding Frenzy Phase?

Coincidentally, this week in Awakened Mind: One-Minute Wake Up Calls to a Bold and Mindful Life, which I’m using as a daily reader this year, David Kundtz speaks of the same subject in an essay titled AdulationOur country, he says, 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.   Ah-freakin-men.  Kurtdz says, Who do you want to celebrate?  Write down the names of a few people – then celebrate them.   If we took our eyes off those the media appoints as celebrities and found our own, would we be spared from the disappointment of finding that men like Armstrong carry their intense athletic competitiveness into life?   Would people like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton crawl back into the woodwork?  And even more important, would our children see, through our eyes, what values are really important?  Good questions that are unlikely to be answered.

I’ve been thinking about the people who would be on my celebrity list.   None of them are famous.   None of them have won a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award.   They are all friends and family, some living and some dead.   They are on my celebrity list not because of some remarkable talent but because they have lived their lives with integrity, grace and compassion, in spite of what life has sent their way.  They have been examples of how to live as a flawed human being in a flawed world.   And yet, if you met them, you’d say they were ordinary.   You will have to know them for a while to learn that although they may seem ordinary on the outside, they are extraordinary on the inside.  They are the kind of people who’d be embarrassed if I named them here … that is, they are humble.

I’ve made my list … now, I’m going to figure our how to celebrate them.  Who would your celebrities be?

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3 Comments on “Celebrity”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I, like you, wouldn’t have any names on my list that you would recognize. I find this culture of making celebrities out of people based to some degree on “how often they are in the news”, rather disturbing. When sex tapes and Playboy centerfolds turn people like the Kardashian sisters into celebs, it makes me worry about the direction that our collective moral compass is pointing.

    As for Lance…I am more than disappointed in him. I would say I am closer to disgusted with him. Not that I think he shouldn’t be human with human frailties but he took it up a notch. He was so vehement that he was above board and made millions of dollars in the process. I always have trouble relating to blatant dishonesty.

  2. As for Lance, Ellen DeGeneres said, Lance Armstrong should change his name to Lance RegularArms. And that cracked me the hell up.

    My favorite living “celebrities” are female comedians like Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Amy Pohler. My favorite dead celebrity is Truman Capote.

    My heroes and my idols are my family and friends. And I try to celebrate them daily.

  3. territerri Says:

    You’re right. In this country, we know WAY too much about certain people, simply because they are physically attractive or have broken records and set new limits of physical strength. It seems to be the trend to encourage these people to push every boundary and see if they can get away with it. Perfection is a myth, and one might be able to convince the world that they possess it, but not for long. It’s inevitable that we’ll be disappointed in the end.

    My heroes are also people whose names you wouldn’t recognize. They’re far from perfect but they are people who have set good examples for the rest of us.

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