Monday, November 12, 2018

Get Over Not Being Famous

"The hope of fame — what hours of speculation, what pulses of enthusiasm, what fevers of effort, are based on that peculiarly subtle illusion! It is yet the lure, the ignis fatuus of almost every breathing heart." 
The Genius - Theodore Dreiser
After every wanton mass-murder shooting comes the wringing of hands, the invocation of prayer, and a search for a deeply-buried motive, “Investigators are sifting through the evidence, on-line and in the assailant’s home, trying to ascertain why this shooting took place.” As if the current event is somehow not connected to similar events…

Sad, because the motive is woven into the fabric of our social norms and our collective consciousness and is not so deeply buried. So what is it? Simply that all violence is self-hate — a condition we should be aware of, but, due to the following tendencies, we like to keep buried.

First comes the psychological environment we live in, whether we’re deeply affected or just marginally. And that is the winner/loser paradigm which guides the very formation of our egos and how we perceive ourselves. Of course, we would be the last to admit that a thirst for recognition and its offshoot fame were part of the psychological elements that shape our egos.

Why do we base our self-image on these things? Because the winner/loser paradigm is all around us, manifested so perfectly by a president that dotes on the superficiality of image, dispensing and condemning, the latest being his erstwhile Attorney General, who he loved to humiliate publicly.

Some people play the game, excel at it, others give it a good try, but most fall by the wayside into different degrees of indifference and self-loathing, and it’s in that category we find the embittered ones who act out!

A friend of mine ventured that those to whom real fame comes are blessed with a combination of vision, charisma, and chops, in that they are very good at what they do. They excel because of talent; fame comes later. These people are rare — the ones whose talent is so great they don’t even think about fame.

His comments are illuminated in Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” in which Trigorin, a famous writer, foreshadows his destruction of Nina, at the same time his mistress, Arkadina, an actress, destroys her son’s confidence, ultimately driving him to suicide. 

NINA. That was my dead mother’s home. I was born there, and have lived all my life beside this lake. I know every little island in it.
TRIGORIN. This is a beautiful place to live. [He catches sight of the dead sea-gull] What is that?
NINA. A gull. Constantine shot it. 
TRIGORIN. What a lovely bird! Really, I can’t bear to go away. Can’t you persuade Irina to stay? [He writes something in his note-book.]
NINA. What are you writing?
TRIGORIN. Nothing much, only an idea that occurred to me. [He puts the book back in his pocket] An idea for a short story. A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed.

Because they are secure in their talent, Trigorin and Arkadina, the two famous people are heedless of the hurt they inflict, even on friends and family members.
NINA. I knew we should meet again. [With emotion] I have come to an irrevocable decision, the die is cast: I am going on the stage. I am deserting my father and abandoning everything. I am beginning life anew. I am going, as you are, to Moscow. We shall meet there.
TRIGORIN. [Glancing about him] Go to the Hotel Slavianski Bazar. Let me know as soon as you get there. I shall be at the Grosholski House in Moltchanofka Street. I must go now. [A pause.]

NINA. Just one more minute!

TRIGORIN. [In a low voice] You are so beautiful! What bliss to think that I shall see you again so soon! [She sinks on his breast] I shall see those glorious eyes again, that wonderful, ineffably tender smile, those gentle features with their expression of angelic purity! My darling! [A prolonged kiss.]

The Act III curtain falls.

Two years elapse between the third and fourth acts.
Act IV takes place during the winter two years later, in the drawing room that has been converted to Konstantin's study.
Nina and Trigorin lived together in Moscow for a time, during which she had a child by him, who died, after which, he abandoned her and went back to Arkadina. Nina never achieved any real success as an actress, and is currently on a tour of the provinces with a small theatre group.
Secret yearnings for recognition, daydreams of command performances keep us motivated through our twenties, that is, if we haven’t already dropped out or ruined our lives because we couldn’t face the truth or couldn't accept the fact that we would never be famous. 

Of course, it would be simplistic to assign complete blame for violent incidents to lack of recognition and validation, but like John Waters, I believe there is both smoke and fire in the way a society writes off individuals as losers.

So when an individual realizes that fame isn't happening, he/she feels cheated and finds refuge in our cultural orthodoxies: television, Internet, gambling, porn, fundamentalism, and materialism. And what symbolizes material prominence more than possessing a gun?

In their deep subconscious, many people accept not being famous and get over it. Others desperately wanting a recognition that isn’t forthcoming, begin to doubt and hate themselves, and as a result, act out a mass-murder event as the means and the end to 15 minutes of fame and the solution to their self-loathing. Imagine being a person who's just mass murdered. What does he tell himself? "Wow, I just murdered X number of people so I could be famous for 15 minutes." The feeling, and the lack thereof!

Again, blaming lack of recognition may sound simplistic, but when you examine more primitive cultures, you wonder if they even have a word in their language for “fame?” Not so much nowadays because primitive cultures have also been infected by the ruling orthodoxies of the day.

When people spend most of their day toiling the soil, hunting for food, or pounding out tortillas, they have less time for self-examination. Nevertheless, demographics show a greater incidence of mass-murder events in developed countries than in less developed societies. What’s more, if a mass murder were to occur in a less developed society, I warrant they’d have both a logical and swift way of dealing with it. Unlike the USA whose ruling class trots out the same platitudes each time a lethal incident takes place.

Everything’s changed. And yet, hark back to the 1940s, to societies that had never seen a white man. Their codes of ethics regulated life for centuries without members going postal… How do we get back to a state of such grace, where self-worth becomes a societal absolute?
You may never be famous, but you are not a loser. If you need 365 reasons to validate this postulate, check out Kundalini Musings.