Everyone knows our culture loves celebrities. I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t get this. The phenomenon of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians isn’t lost on anyone. But that doesn’t mean we are less fascinated with celebrities. We still love them, fawn over them, and, increasingly, want to be them. Yes, much has been said about the existence of a desire to be a celebrity. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are said to exacerbate this desire by providing a platform for people to be discovered.
Or you can just float your kid in a balloon. Remember that? That was silly.
On one level this desire for celebrity isn’t bad. In fact, at its core the desire for celebrity is a desire for acceptance and approval – which we all need. To deny our needs for acceptance and approval would be a denial of the need to belong that each and every person has. What is different about celebrity is that it is typically a special kind of acceptance and approval given to those who have shown exceptional talent and ability.
And then the reality show ruined everything.
Seriously. Reality TV ruined all the things. Ever.
That and country music, but that’s another story. (I can almost hear people unsubscribing)
Much has been made about the desire of individuals for celebrity. In fact, right now there is an article floating around social media about Generation Y’s inclination to think they are awesome. And I get it. With the constant stream of information, status updates, and phone alerts, it is easy for us to feel lost and unseen. The only way to get noticed, it seems, is to be famous. To become the celebrity. To be recognized for your exceptional awesomeness regardless of what you have achieved or not. This is what we aspire to. This is what we need to get accepted and gain approval.
In a world where a crap-ton of people are all clamoring for attention on social media, being ordinary isn’t good enough.
While ordinary may not be enough to get noticed in the dizzying world where pictures of cats dominate our social streams (seriously, I do not understand this phenomenon), I want ordinary. The deepest desires of my heart may be seen as mundane by a world enamored by TV shows about basketball wives.
You know what I want? To be known. Not by masses but by friends and family. I want a house – with a deck and a patio with a built in grill. I want peace and quiet in the mornings and a remote for my TV. Simple things. That’s what I want.
I think that is what most of us want. I’m beginning to think our infatuation with the pursuit of fame and celebrity is actually rooted in a fear of going unnoticed. It isn’t that we all want a reality TV show about our escapades to Costco in search of bulk toilet paper, it’s that we are afraid that if we don’t celebrity, we won’t matter. Not really. Our fear is that we will slip in and out of life with making an impact.
The siren song lie is that leaving a mark in the world is reserved only for the celebrity and famous.
So let’s acknowledge everyday, ordinary people who make deep impact in the world.
- The ordinary bus driver who makes travel to school and home safe for children.
- The ordinary teacher who exhausts themselves for the betterment of thankless kids.
- The ordinary mother works a job and cares for her children so they can have all they need.
- The ordinary husband who faithfully serves his family so they know they are loved.
- The ordinary neighbors who make their neighborhood safe for each other so their kids can play outside.
Ordinary isn’t ordinary. Ordinary is beautiful and good and simple and sustainable and, in a world of “Look at me,” radical.
And let’s be honest, most of us are ordinary. We work ordinary jobs in ordinary cities living in ordinary houses with ordinary kids. And that’s the way it is supposed to be. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there might just be everything right with that. There is radical beauty in the ordinary.
You see, even the celebrity has to be deal with the ordinary. Walt Disney once said,
“As far as I can remember, being a celebrity has never helped me make a good picture … or command the obedience of my daughter, or impress my wife. It doesn’t even seem to help keep fleas off our dog, and if being a celebrity won’t give one an advantage over a couple fleas, then I guess there can’t be that much in being a celebrity after all.”
And if it won’t impress my wife, then what good is it?
This isn’t a manifesto for mediocrity. Far from it. This is a call to stop trying so frickin’ hard to get noticed. Don’t be dominated by the fleeting approval of the masses, but work to sustain the intimacy of being known by the few.
So go be ordinary. Do ordinary things in your ordinary town with other ordinary people. But just do them. Don’t do them for fanfare and accolades. Do them because they bring you joy. Do them because you want to help people. Do them because it is the right thing to do.
Do them because ordinary really is pretty extraordinary.