Thursday, June 25, 2009

Surreal lives

It's a strange day when Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett die on the same day. I never owned a Michael Jackson cassette or album, nor did I have the quintessential Farah Fawcett poster on my wall, but these two celebreties were two of the most difficult public figures to avoid in the 70's (Fawcett) and 80's (Jackson). One had to crawl in a cave to avoid hearing something about them, and this was even in the days before the Internet. These two figures are case studies on the effect of celebrity on society, and on the individuals themselves. When I learned the news, I immediately thought of the Barenaked Ladies' song Celebrity, and its lyrics that highlight the only thing we ever see in the person is the celebrity itself, and that celebrity has tenuous meaning.

I write this reflection as an observation rather than judgment, but it makes me wonder about how we look at any celebrity, whether that person is a musician or actor, athlete, or even a religious figure. How do people (how do I?) look at Jesus? How do congregational members see their pastor? I will never forget the four-year old child who didn't believe that I ate when I shared a meal with her family one Sunday afternoon. Our images of the other are always incomplete, if not constructed by what we want to see. Some days I live a surreal life.

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