Picked up a magazine today with a cover story entitled, "So and So--Rock Climber, Meditator, Musician, Eccentric and New Age Billionaire." There's a full-color cover photograph of this so and so, and yes, he's dark, handsome and "imperially slim." |
I haven't read the article yet, and I'm not sure I will. Actually, I'm not sure I should. Panegyric profiles of these sorts of people make me feel so downright mediocre. I mean, why couldn't he be just a good rock climber? That wouldn't bother me at all. The air has got to be a little thin in a guy's cabeza if scaling rocks is his idea of killing time. That this glossy cover boy is a meditator doesn't particularly excite my envy either. The absence of thought comes naturally to some people. As for being eccentric . . . well, by gosh, by golly, by gum, by Jove, and buy me a home where the buffalo roam--there's nothing more commonplace than eccentric people nowadays.
I would very much like to have learned how to play the piano, but my parents, damn them, neglected to spoil my childhood by drilling me in that discipline. Last but not least, the billionaire bit--New Age or otherwise--is appealing. A mere measly one billion would be precisely the tonic for invigorating my self-esteem.
Why the need to reinvigorate my self-esteem, you may wonder?
It's due to exhaustion from over-exposure to media promoted exposés on people who are made to seem so superior to my petty and pitiful self. I'm a Lilliputian in Brobdingnag. How is it possible that so many men are so wealthy and witty, so handsome and talented, so fashionable and revered, and yet I'm not one of them? Never mind if there were only a few hundred of these eminently ennobled chevaliers, one could simply shrug and say, "Oh well . . . every generation spawns a few hundred Caesars, Beethovens, and Einsteins."
But there are hundreds of thousands of them, and they're all geniuses.
Surely no period in history has produced such a bumper crop of extraordinary masters of renown. In Hollywood alone there are more than half a million certified geniuses. In New York City or Washington DC, you can't get served in a decent restaurant unless you've been on television within the past day or so. It doesn't even matter why you were on television. All you need to declare is, "I was on television, ergo, sum," and the maitré d' will say, "Right this way sir, your table is waiting."
Athletes, movie stars, real estate tycoons, politicians, doctors, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, writers, painters, singers, social activists, alcoholics, drug addicts, hair coiffures or whatever they're called, fashion models, dress designers, and on and on and on. Moreover, most of these people are devotees of several vocations at the same time. The athlete movie star who drinks a lot and occasionally models men's underwear at charity shows, for example.
But where am I on that list? Who am I as far as the contemporary stylists in vogue are concerned?
Well, let me tell you. I am nowhere and I am nobody. I am just one of a few billion homage makers in this world. Without us there would be no heroes, no celebrities, and no idols of admiration.
But I'll tell you something else: if the media saturation continues to escalate, the day will arrive when all people, no matter how common and frivolous, will be accorded notoriety for something or other. Then, nobody will be famous other than in their own minds. As more and more people receive recognition for diminishing distinction there will be fewer and fewer left to pay homage to greatness.
Recognition for achievement is not the issue. It's the achievement of recognition that matters. Today, whatever is given notice by the public media is considered significant. Whatever and whoever. And the media is so massive, so pervasive, and so intrusive; their standards of excellence so abysmal, that virtually any boneheaded jackass can find himself the toast of the town if he has an able public relations pimp working the street corner for him. Or, if you can't afford an emissary, just squat in your hovel, rouse your desire for attention into a rage, and explode upon the scene in a frenzy of violence. At worst, you'll get front page, prime-time recognition, as well as free room and board for the rest of your life. Better yet, they'll write a book and/or make a movie about you. I mean, "Ain't life grand."
But, woe is the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, or lowest of low, the housewife or mother who live their lives without regard for, or regard from the news-mongers of this information battered age. How worthless and obscure they must feel. To live anonymously and then to die, as if at sea, "without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown."
Can you imagine how dreadful it would be to live your whole life doing the best you can with what fortune endowed you, and yet to die without the benediction of a New York Times obituary? What a terrifying thought.
My plan is a simple one. I'm going to move to Mississippi, dwell in some ramshackle cabin, farm a small plot of land, and hole up and lay low for the next twenty-five years. By that time, I'm sure to be the last anonymous man in America, and then I'll be famous too. And it will be a lot safer than climbing rocks.
Morgan McFinn is from Chicago and currently resides in Cambodia with his wife. He has a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University. Much of his work should be considered humorous and fictionalized memoirs. There are also satirical essays. Location settings include Thailand, Cambodia, India, Burma, Morocco and Greece. Excerpts and reviews are available via website: http://www.morganmcfinn.com
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