Hail to the ordinary

“ There are definitely some enemies in my life I definitely would wish celebrity on…” — Gary Coleman

Star of the sitcom, ‘Diff’rent Strokes,’ who suffered a reversal of fortune and died at 42

(Part 1 of 2)

IN 2010,  a young boy who climbed Mount Everest gained a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. He was on TV for his 15 minutes of celebrity status. I had to flip the channel.

Abby Sunderland, a California teenager who set out in January 2010 to circumnavigate the world solo and who eventually sent out distress signals that had three countries scrambling to launch rescue missions in the dangerous South Indian Ocean. She’s alive and well apparently.

Ian Kiernan, an Australian record holder for the same feat says, “I don’t know what she’s doing in the Southern Ocean as a 16-year-old in the middle of winter. It’s foolhardy.”  Abby’s brother had achieved the feat a few years ago. And it was enough to make the younger sibling decide, hey me too.

Back in April 1996, a 7-year old named Jessica, died together with her father and flight instructor, their plane crashing after take-off in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Jessica was trying to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the US.

And who can ever forget the insane inanity of the “balloon boy’s” parents?

Such stunts have been met with criticism, some loud and harsh and some with just a mute shaking of the head. I, for one, am deeply suspicious about the values that generate this kind of vainglorious dreams that badly skews our perceptions of what matters in life.

As others are finding out, celebrity can be a curse. When will this insanity of glory hounds end, both these young ones and their parents? Does the lure of making it on the books, celebrity, money and endorsements and feeling superior overtake common sense? Do parents feel the need to bask in the reflected glory of their children’s achievements? Surely there has got to be more to life than satisfying one’s ego. Surely, there are more worthwhile things in the world such self-absorption can be redirected to.

In the interest of providing a view that may knock some sense to some of us with pie-in-the sky longings for recognition and celebrity, here’s an article that attempts to provoke thought. This addresses the same tendency that in Greek mythology, had Icarus’ wax wings melting in the heat of the sun as he flew higher, the same thing that doomed the fallen angels and the same thing that may have driven Adam and Eve from Eden. Here it is – an attempt to show appreciation for what simply is.

The world we live in is conditioned to emulate extremes. We delight in the most beautiful, the tallest, the largest, the richest, the brightest, the fastest and anything else you can think of, as well as pay attention to extremes at the opposite end of the spectrum: the ugliest, the shortest, the smallest, the poorest, the darkest, the slowest. You get the idea.

We’re conditioned to pay no mind to the ordinary, the middle ground, the average run-of-the-mill, the shades of gray, the humdrum of everyday life or the predictably dull and boring.

The heroes and heroines made immortal in books and movies were extraordinary characters. We do not particularly care for bland characters who live lives of quiet desperation. We want to live vicariously through the lives of characters who are defiantly shaking their fists at the gods and beating all odds.

We are tempted to look at movie stars, fat cats and other luminaries who dare defy conventions basking in the public limelight pursued by TMZ cameras as people worthy of awe and respect. And if you let it, a tiny tinge of envy gnaws at our souls when you see their images commanding megabucks. They appear as titans walking among ants.

Granted a select few of them deserve the attention we give them but most can be reduced to fodder for the gristmill of entertainment. The truth is, those who deserve our awe and respect are the ones who orbit our daily life.

(Continued next week …)

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail monette.maglaya@asianjournalinc.com

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