Jacob Max Winkler sees how celebrity worship leaves the human connection out of the equation. It’s time to change the way we love our stars.
Somewhere in Tokyo there is the ultimate Kimono Department Store. Five floors of silk, cut and sewn into the most exquisite traditional Japanese garments. It’s a tourist attraction in its own right and we made sure to pay a visit on our family trip ten years ago.
I remember my younger sister suddenly speechless, pointing across the floor to an African-American woman and the rather larger men of various races accompanying her.
“That’s Beyonce!” my sister gasped.
“OMIGOD, it’s BEYONCE!” she said.
“Let’s go say hi,” I said.
We walked over and Lydia received an autograph and free tickets to an upcoming show where she would be one of the few members of the audience who knew what the lyrics meant. After meeting Beyonce, my sister was flushed and shaking. I don’t think she said anything for half an hour and she definitely wasn’t interested in a kimono.
She’d had a religious experience.
It was likely the first and only time she was so swept away, instantly and uncontrollably moved and affected by someone’s presence. I’m sure she’s not unique in this. Fans at concerts go wild. The energy devotees have for their stars of choice is far more than affection. Celebrities carry the glamour of the sacred, society’s projection of divine energy.
This projection is a double-edged sword. Celebrities receive money, fame, clout and adoration in exchange for their privacy and all hopes they may have for a normal, balanced life. Whatever wounds, character flaws or issues they have when they become famous are writ large across tabloids and twitter-feeds.
Many celebrities are gifted in particular aspects of life, but their achievements are all attempts to feel worthy of love. They desperately want to be adored and appreciated for who they are but the more they strive to get that feeling through accomplishment, the more it eludes them. They’re plagued by an inner emptiness and their whole life is affected. Their relationships are overshadowed by fear of intimacy, poor communication and resentment. They have few or no real friends. Their relationships with family are troubled. They have very few if any fulfilling activities for their leisure time and spend it mostly in risky, self-destructive, or mind-numbing ways. Eventually, their suffering starts to endanger their career, the one part of their life that is celebrated. Like Icarus, they are given wings with which it is almost impossible to resist flying too close to the sun.
Hundreds of celebrities have died from drug-related deaths. The news is replete with the most recent candidates who at younger and younger ages are suffering so much and at risk for harming themselves and others. Philip Seymour Hoffman crossed over as this article was being written. May his soul be blessed with peace wherever he is on his journey.
Is there anything we can do?
I have three ideas. Two of them will wait for future articles. The first is one that everyone can do immediately: pray.
Regardless of whether prayers actually affect the person being prayed for (and I believe they do), anyone who prays regularly knows that it changes the one who is praying. There are different kinds of prayer and someone praying could experience anything from meaningless, rote repetition to the throes of mystical ecstasy. There is one kind of prayer that is particularly suited to addressing the tragedy of celebrities mentioned above.
When we pray for others’ happiness and well-being, we see the person we’re praying for in a different light. We feel compassion for them instead of idolizing them. This releases our projection. We see the other as simply another human being with similar struggles, striving for happiness in a complicated world.
If enough people pray for the movie stars, musicians, sports stars, models and other icons they admire, the sword of projection may be lifted from their necks. There will be less obsession for the most minute details of their lives and more respect for their dignity. When we pray that celebrities grow in wisdom, we encourage them to use their fame, wealth and power to heal themselves and those around them. Just knowing that someone holds such a wish for us prompts us to think in different ways. The prayers may even be answered and have a more transcendent causal effect. The more that celebrities get the healing that they need, the more they will model the sanity, self-compassion, and acceptance that we all could benefit from.
So Beyonce, if you’re reading this, may you be blessed with everything that you need. May you be healthy of mind, body and heart. May be use all of your blessings to grow and to heal and all of your gifts to make the world more beautiful.
Photo: Public Domain