Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
Fawcett and Jackson - Fame and Immortality
So we've just seen the deaths, on the same day, or Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson (the former's death having unfortunately been eclipsed by the latter), and two weeks later everyone is still talking about it. One was the King of Pop in the '80's - essentially creating the artform known as the music video and MTV, defining pop music as we see it today in the hands of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, etc - all this despite being a torrential weirdo with, at best, catastropically bad judgment. The other defined beauty in the '70's, and then went on to show herself more than a pretty face, a formidible actress - who also struggled with marriage and family issues throughout much of her later life.
Weren't they great.
As we reflect on their lives, and now their deaths, we see that they have found a way to transcend death - afterall, we're still talking about them - they have accomplished what many have sought to accomplish throughout their lives, a way to LIVE ON, beyond their mortal existence - and to live on in, by and large, positive ways - not the way Hitler lives on - but known and remembered for the positive impact they had on the world.
So that gets me thinking, as most things do...
Have you ever noticed that we have Saints, and important biblical events, portrayed on stained-glassed windows? We've been doing it for centuries. And often those saints, when depicted in art, have halos coming out of their heads. We got this from artistic depictions of the Greek gods, with halos. In the case of the gods, the reason for this is that they believed that, unlike us mortals, us creatures, that can only reflect the light of another source, the gods were SELF-ILLUMINATING - they glowed - in fact, the greeks believed they saw them whenever they looked up at the sky - the stars, they were the gods, so they believed. Sometimes, some heroes of ancient Greece also got to move beyond the mortal sphere into immortality, signified by their becoming constellations. As such, these Greek heroes were believe to be living up in the heavens, glowing as it were, self-illuminating, IMMORTAL, like the gods.
Our saints on stained glass experience the same thing - so we believe in the Catholic Church - that they live FOREVER, that they have passed through to a new, immortal existence - and they HAVE when you think about it, even if you DON'T believe in life after death, because we still talk about them - their lives are become the stuff of myth and legend. So their depiction with halos, or on stained glass, signifies their self-illumination - their achievement of immortality.
And isn't that all our goal in life? In fact, isn't that the driving force of humanity itself - what makes human's human - we, unlike any other creature in the world, know that some day, we won't be here - so we try to find ways to still be here, ways to achieve some measure of immortality. This is why we have kids, so that we might live on in them. Its why we build monuments - the great pyramids being the most odvious example, or a tower named after a guy named Eiffel, or the faces of four U.S. Presidents on the side of a mountain, or a marble statue of Mary holding her crucified son. Its so some part of us, maybe even the DEFINING part of us, will still be here when we aren't here any more.
And then watching my TV, I notice its similarity to a stained-glassed window, only the pictures are moving. And what are those pictures doing? They are retelling and retelling the same old myths and stories, albeit in new ways, that humanity has been telling since its beginnings - that is the pictures that people are watching anyway. All variations on the common story, those images, portrayed by our Tom Cruises, Angelina Jolies, Jon Stewart, Brett Farves and Derek Jeters and Wayne Gretzkys, Barach Obamas and George W.s - and by Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson - resonate into our unconscious, giving us the illusion that, like the gods of old (who were also illusions), these famous people are not only famous - they are immortal - self-illuminating, thanks to the bulbs of our TV screens.
Afterall, WE CALL THEM STARS!!
But when you think about it, why would ANYONE want to be famous, looking at the damage it caused to those who experience it - look no further than Princess Diana to see - if not for the belief, misguided though it may be, that we could be truly immortal by being famous.
And society plays along with this - seeing a young, beautiful, sexual and yet supposedly virginal, woman with an okay singing voice - is it not society that places her on the pedastle, propelling her to the role of Aphrodite, that she may be worshipped as such - and she plays along because it pays well, and she wants to be immortal too, right? - and is it not that SAME society that then punishes her, as she inevitably falls from that pedastle, for she is not a goddess, but just a young girl, THE SAME AS EVERYBODY ELSE, only deprived of the opportunity to make the mistakes we all make in childhood.
We all want to be famous because we all want to be immortal. But fame will dissapoint those who strive for it, those who achieve it, and those who worship it.
A second reflection may be offered as well - Beethoven could be considered famous and immortal, in a way, in that 200 years after his death, his music is still revered. But Beethoven wasn't seeking fame. He was just letting out the music inside of himself, which he miraculously was able to share, even in spite of his deafness later in life. I think the TRUE heroes are the ones who seek no fame, but are simply being who they truly are, simply sharing their gifts. Maybe they'll be remembered, maybe not - that wasn't their driving force - it was simply to share the already immortal spirit that dwells inside them with the world. The ones who WANTED to be famous, who wanted to be immortal - the Caesars, the Napoleons, the Hitlers - they are IN-famous - they are the tyrants.
And third, they're all still dead. They have no way of enjoying their immortality. So, given that, who cares about fame? Who cares about being remembered 1000 years from now?
If Beetoven is in heaven, as I believe he is, but don't know for sure, do you think his experience of heaven is better than otherwise even by one iota by his knowledge that people are still listening to his music here on earth? Compared to heaven, who cares what's going on here on earth?
Instead, doesn't it make more sense to turn our inevitable MORTALITY into a gift for someone else? And is not this what Jesus professed to be the secret to true immortality - for anyone who would live, must lay down their life, take up their cross, and follow.
So, as for Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett - let's honor them, as we should, for the gifts they shared - but lets also learn the lesson that their lives teach: that FAME IS FALSE IMMORTALITY - that way, maybe their tragedic stories might not be in vain.