Why would anyone today desire fame or a career in public service? Why would you when there is so much public and media lust for the embarrassing secrets of the famous? What is at the heart of it? Fame, a publicly known life, does not equate to greatness. And many extraordinary Humans, living extraordinary lives, walk among us unknown, invisible, to the public eye.
I would never want fame or a visible public life. I would not make a good public figure in the area that most interests me, which is the life of mystical experience independent of any religious system. A ‘mystic’ or ‘spiritual messenger’ is perceived as saintly, and that’s not me. I have a salty tongue that enjoys the savor of curse-words. I also find secret joy in challenging and provoking people by advocating for the devil they fear and the sin they shun. My desire for truth is central to these provocations. As Joseph Campbell said, ‘The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.’
People want their public figures, their leaders and gurus, to be dressed in virginal white. It compensates for the dirty but comfortingly hidden stains in the psyche.
It used to be that America’s public leaders had a private life that was guarded by a silent press. Presidents, Congressmen, and celebrities engaged in illicit activities without having to answer to the public for their actions. FDR had a mistress; JFK is reported to have enjoyed dalliances here and there; even MLK Jr., according to some, was a member of this after hours club of attractively powerful public figures. I understand why their affairs were kept hidden from public view – their was work to do.
It’s different now. The press and the public cannot get enough of the tabloid details of sordid behavior. Presidents (e.g., Clinton), Catholic priests, public school teachers, well-known actors and musicians are not immune from the virus of modern unmasking. Public figures are exalted in the light of their accomplishments then burned in the shadows of their secret sins.
Besides the superficially perverse entertainment value, there might be a deeper need seeking expression within the public soul. There is the need to know that the venerated political leaders and celebrities are ultimately Human. In the past, the public was content with keeping their gilded butterflies in locked cages of adoration; today, we insist on stripping them of the adornments of this privilege.
Historically, the eyes of an adoring public wanted to believe that there are people who live lives that rise far above the common lot. We wanted to worship from afar the gods and goddesses residing in the skyward temples of our imaginings and projections. We wanted evidence of beings more glorious than our perceived commonness.
But that’s surface stuff, the veneer of fame cloaking the clay of our Humanity.
Deeper still is our desire to believe in and experience ourselves in extraordinarily brilliant expression. We have secret daydreams of flying among the stars – dreams that get crowded out of our minds by the immediate, comparatively trivial concerns of the day.
When we see public figures stripped of their covering of perfection we are invited by the soul’s ambition to envision ourselves taking their place, and doing better. The revelations of private sins suggest that these people are as Human and deformed as we believe we are.
But if we stop there, at the common ground of our shared foibles, we risk the loss of opportunity of actualizing our shared pool of unique talents and potential.
Revelations of celebrity missteps, like stories of humble or traumatic beginnings, suggest that if they can succeed in spite of their problems, then so can I.
Melvin Powers, a book publisher of self-help and inspirational books, including Think and Grow Rich and Psycho-Cybernetics, understanding the uniqueness and potential greatness within each of us, remarked that
The uncommon man is merely the common man thinking and dreaming of success in larger terms and in more fruitful areas.
To be extraordinary is simply the fruition of the universal Acorn gestating within our Humanity.
Being extraordinary is being fully Human. Being fully Human is extraordinary!