Who Should you Idolize? Nobody, That’s who.
Celebrity worship has been around a long time. We might think today’s famous people are unique in their wealth and fawning public, but they aren’t. The highest paid sports celebrity of all time was a Roman Charioteer, Gaius Appuleius Diocles, whose career earnings equaled roughly 15 billion dollars in today’s money. This is how it works: Some random person wiggles their way into the consciousness of many people through the publication of some unique or extraordinary skill. At a certain threshold, when enough people become aware of him, he obtains celebrity. Pretty simple. Gaius, the charioteer, didn’t have the most wins of the charioteers in his time – he was just the most famous. Celebrity is nothing more than the product of public opinion. We have political celebrities, sports celebrities, entertainment celebrities, and celebrities who are famous simply for being famous. To be clear, I’m not against being a part of the public consciousness; a celebrity is made by the will of the people, and there’s no arguing with that. What bothers me, though, is the value that’s placed in these celebrities, and the unhealthy obsession we seem to have with becoming celebrities ourselves. A person who spends his life looking up to other people is someone who will likely never see his own value and who is even more likely himself to remain an unfilled vessel.
Use Celebrities, Don’t Idolize Them
If you’re a parent, what was the first thing you wanted for your baby when you saw him for the first time? Fame? Fortune? Of course not! What you wanted for him was happiness. Think deeply for a moment. What do you want for your life? The same thing. Happiness of course! I think happiness is achieved through the fulfillment of one’s potential as a human being. How can you achieve happiness with yourself if you spend your time trying to be like someone else? Therefore, before idolizing a celebrity, find out what your nature is and set out on a path to fulfill it. On that path, you might find that you need counsel. Find the person who knows what you need to know. Learn from them, thank them, and continue on your way. Seeking celebrity, like following a rainbow, is foolish because there’s nothing at the end but an illusion. Becoming famous, if not in accordance with one’s nature, solves nothing. It’s the harmony within you that’s the real ticket to a happy life! It comes through hard work, waking up every day and doing only the things that will make you a better Dave (or Jane or Earl or whomever); celebrity might come, but maybe not. If you achieve fame, or if you don’t, your happiness is not affected.
Teach Your Kid to Disrespect the Cult of Personality
If what you want for your kid is happiness, which I think you do, then encouraging or tolerating the worship of some celebrity is not helpful. Adrian Peterson, the running back for the Vikings, is someone a lot of little kids look up to. I can understand why. But, in listening to interviews with Adrian, it’s obvious that the guy achieved success by watching other running backs, picking up what he needed to make himself better, and becoming his own person. He’s achieved fame and fortune by doing it his way, not by outright copying anybody else. If my kid wants to be a running back some day, I might very well try to get him to talk to Adrian Peterson about it. Not because I think Adrian is a better human being or has some deep insight into life. I’d want my kid to talk to him because Adrian knows something about running through people and scoring touchdowns. That’s it. Is he a great guy? I don’t know; he might be; but if he is, it has nothing to do with his ability to run the ball. I’ve never understood why some people wear jerseys with other people’s name on them. I’d never buy them for my kids. They have names of their own. Learn from people, don’t desire to be them.
Is being famous bad? No, not at all. Being famous is simply an expression by other people that they like what you’re doing (or are in universal disgust about it – whatever). Recognition is not bad, but fame has been the cause of too many inflated egos. Even worse than the overblown egos is the value some people place in celebrity personalities. It affects their own sense of self worth, which is depriving the world of potential. Some people are more motivated by hero worship than they are by the search for meaning. They don’t care for introspection and truth. Is celebrity a natural response to a purely stoic life, or is it the end result of a meaningless struggle? If your dreams for yourself (or for your kid) revolve around the opinions of others, you’ll be unhappy. When you find and fulfill your purpose, even if nobody notices but you – happiness.
“Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised.” - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations