“These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.” Really?

A week or two ago I saw this headline: These Celebrities Changed our Lives Forever.

Really?

If that’s true, shame on us. But please let this be hyperbole.

I glanced through the “A” list of Hollywood big shots who wouldn’t have even made the “C” list of people who have changed my life forever.

Media has the biggest ego of them all. It’s as if they exist for the people can be happy. It’s as if they speak and we, in a collective gasp, can awaken from our effortless slumber to once again feel alive again.

Well here’s the shocking truth about celebrity: they, those A-listers, need us. We don’t need them.

Some of the masses might act as if their life means nothing unless they are sitting in front of the TV or reading the latest gossip blog, but everyone knows the secret – celebrity is a hollow shell, propped up by an endless cycle of ads and media conventions which tell us all how terrible our lives our. If only we could own the car that celebrity A has! If only we could live in the house that celebrity B has. If only we could have the problems of celebrity C.

So let’s be very clear here. Some celebrities may have moved us, but they haven’t changed us. Some actors are remarkably talented, and they have the means to, for an hour or two, delve deep into our hearts and make us think about the larger issues of humanity. But they don’t change us. Two dimensional celebrity figures do not have the power to change us.

But three-dimensional humans do have the capacity to change others.

My wife changed me.

The birth of each of my kids changed me.

My parents changed me.

My pastor changed me.

My friends have changed me.

These are the true celebrities in our lives, not worthy of worship, but worthy of a hearty “thanks” for what they have done for us. How they have molded us, moved us, and forced us to challenge everything we know about ourselves.

So, sorry Hollywood promotion blah-blah blog, I won’t fall for your trap. But I will turn off the TV and spend some more time with the people in my life.

Here’s hoping others follow suit.

Our Culture in a Headline: “Beyoncé convinced Jay Z is hiding things from her”

I saw this headline on a news site the other day. I simply have one question: do people really care? I’m serious. Are there people out there who will gladly click on that link to find the latest gossip?

I know the answer to that. I’ve come across Justin Beiber groupies and Miley Cyrus fans who certainly wouldn’t know who the vice president is. We really are entertaining ourselves to death, aren’t we?

I have nothing against entertainment. I’m a writer, after all, and I hope to entertain people with my stories. But when entertainment becomes elevated into the realm of obsession – to the detriment of having well-rounded citizens, then I start to fear for the future of the USA (as my home country) or any other country which follows suite.

The amount of entertainment that we consume is staggering. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons that the quality of the mainstream news has steadily declined – they have to compete with so much superfluous culture. They have to grab attention from a myriad of consumers who have their brains loosely connected to a thousand things at once. Therefore, stories become sensationalized and, perhaps, even embellished. (Brian Williams anyone?)

The frightening part about all of this for me is that there are many who really don’t care what’s going on in the world. They really don’t care about ISIS, or politics, or healthcare, or race issues, or Ukrainian conflicts. Many people are so consumed about their own business that many of us have lost touch with the outside world.

I’ve been recently re-watching Ken Burns’ “The War” and what strikes me the most about the Greatest Generation who watched the war from the home-front is how engaged everyone was in the process of war. It was an entire society that was completely committed, completely enthralled, completely wanting to know every detail. That didn’t make it a homogeneous society – far from it. America was then and is today extremely diverse, but there was a sense of unity, a sense of understanding, a sense of duty, a sense of collectiveness that is lacking in today’s society. There many be many reasons for this – one simply being our pluralistic society (which if you go back a few days and look at my post about pluralism you’ll understand how necessary it is), but one of the main reasons that many in our country don’t care what is going on is because they are wrapped up in the lives of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I hope we can wake up  before it’s too late.

Can someone be too open-minded?

(Here’s a little different kind of post for today. I like to dabble with philosophical thought and societal issues from time to time. It helps me process. Here goes.)

What does it mean to be open-minded? Or narrow-minded? Or closed minded?

Have you ever took a minute to think about what those terms actually mean?

I came across a person’s profile the other day (I can’t even remember the website) and this person described herself as open-minded, and for the first time I wondered exactly what that meant. I, myself, am a person who has a head full of opinions, but I always consider myself open-minded. I’m willing to listen to what others have to say. I don’t ignore facts. Is that what this person was saying? It’s not the impression I got.

I got the impression that open-mindedness in this person’s mind meant that “I won’t judge you no matter what.” Everything and anything is okay. And so I posed myself this question: Can a person be too open-minded?

If open-mindedness means that whatever-whatever is all right, you could basically dump everything and anything into that person’s head. What’s the beauty of that?

So many people are afraid of stating what they believe because they might be deemed by others as judgmental or it might be “offensive”. I personally can’t live in such a way that my brain is nothing but a fluorescent light on a warm summer night, welcoming all kinds of creepy crawly things. My life needs to be grounded in things that I believe in. Things which I believe are good for both me and my kids. Things I believe that help society, and build a better future for everyone. Not everyone will agree with me about what those things are, but I’m okay with that.

Do I care what other people do and think? Not really. That’s up to them.

Do I think that certain ways of raising kids or looking at the world are more beneficial than other ways of looking at the same things? Absolutely. So does that mean that I should be looked upon as a judgmental and close-minded person. I don’t think so.

This, of course, explains the trap of the “judgmental” stereotype. We’ve seen this many times in the media over the past few years — someone feels offended because someone else thinks differently from them. They feel like they are being judged or their actions criticized. But the reality is, sometimes offense is brought upon oneself and it doesn’t originate with another person.

When disagreement happens, offense is not a necessary outcome.

Let me say that again: Disagreement doesn’t have to create offense.

I accept the fact that I disagree with some people. But I would also be happy to be that person’s friend. Sometimes no offense was meant and no offense should be perceived. Sometimes disagreements should end with shaking hands and going out for coffee.

Now let me be clear. There are, of course, times when real offense is obvious. No one should have to tolerate a spiteful racial epithet or a hurtful gender slur. This is not what I’m talking about.

But our society has become so super-sensitive that any type of belief that goes against the popular thinking of the day or that pierces the ear of the mainstream media is quickly brandished as narrow-minded. (Which, ironically, automatically makes the open-minded people seem less open-minded.)

Hopefully, we can come to respect each other, regardless of beliefs, actions, or religious backgrounds. We spend so much energy in this country being offended, that it could be spent more productively on just living our lives and trying to be graceful, loving people who respect each other’s differences and opinions.

There’s no need to become so open-minded that we don’t believe in anything. There’s no need to be so open-minded that we start to close our mind.

And, by the way, if you disagree with this post, I won’t be offended. We can still be friends.