When you were young you searched for role models. You said: “I would like to be like that person.” With youthful naiveté and enthusiasm you were often indiscriminate. A drugged out, libido driven rock star might do. As you got older however, you became a little more aware, even a little cynical. The number of people you could idolize diminished. Today you respect certain laudatory qualities. You may hold in great esteem people that exhibit them: dedication, selflessness, empathy, honesty. Great. Though no one is perfect, some deserve respect for their accomplishments and good character. You need someone to believe in.
But what about your attitude towards celebrities? Why do you put then on a pedestal? Why, if you are in the presence of a ‘star’, do you feel elated? What is it about you that has a feeling of awe when sharing space with a famous person? And how could this possibly be detrimental to your spiritual growth?
First, consider what you are doing when you ‘elevate’ a well-known stranger. For centuries people have created leaders. Why? A figurehead unites people. “Let’s fight for the king.” The monarch becomes a symbol of the nation. And often this individual is endowed with more than just earthly powers. History is filled with deified human beings: pharaohs, emperors, popes, Dalai Lamas, just to name a few. Why do people have this propensity? They fear the unknown especially ‘threats’ from forces they often see as ‘gods’. So they need to create their own powerful entities to deal effectively with them.
You have inherited this ancient practice. You cannot help putting some people on a pedestal. They are ‘great’. Why? Their elevated ‘position’? Their extraordinary talent? Their display of ‘godlike’ ability? And does this adulation lead you at times to vicarious feelings? You fantasize greatness for yourself. You imagine the attention and accolades being directed to you. Maybe you even pursue personal recognition in sports, music, politics. So what is going on here? Self-centeredness, narcissism? Nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself. But when you enjoy being the center of the world, you can easily close yourself up to it. You can be more concerned with what people think of you then cultivating an attention to others. It certainly is difficult to be loving when you want people to worship you or at least view you as part of an ‘elite’ group. Those people who bask in a fantasy that they are ‘more’ than what they are, righteously separate and sublime.
Celebrity worship can be taken to an extreme. You
can elevate an individual to the status of demigod. You can
imbue them with omnipotent qualities and give them power over
you. You can think that this person is so great, so beautiful,
so talented, so wise, that you accept what they say or do as
perfect for you. Unquestioningly. And when you do this YOU ARE
GIVING UP YOURSELF. You are abdicating your responsibility for
doing what YOU should do in order to love. Yes, you want to have
confidence in ‘superior’ people. They may have qualities you
respect. A model parent perhaps. Philanthropic. Great. But
remember, they are not at all like you imagine them to be. They
have their shortcomings. They are not perfect. So be cautious.
Emulate their best qualities and move on. And if they are a
loving person, that is what they would want for you.