Thursday, January 07, 2010

famous

I just finished my first week of classes for the winter term. Slammed is how I usually feel after the first class where we hear everything that will be required of us over the next few months. Multiply that times 3. The prof tonight suggested that we read a 700 page historical account of the reformation over the weekend. Okay then, I'll get right on that. In addition to having to accommodate the sick suggestions of my scholarly mentors who think that reading is something I can do in my sleep, I also have two presentations to prepare for next week and a 10-page paper to compose by mid-month for a conference. It is a good thing that I have been through this first-week shell shock before and am now able to restrain myself from pulling out my hair in clumps while eating a jumbo bag of potato chips.

While in Manitoba over Christmas, I heard an interview with Van Morrison. I like the guy's music and after hearing what he had to say, I really admired the man as well. He does not want to be famous. He said that he plays music and this enables him to put food on the table. He refuses to talk in terms of his greatest hits and has made it a point to isolate himself from the insanity that is celebrity. He is the anti-star. All the standard questions that you ask someone who is enamoured with how enamoured you are with them fell flat. He said what he wanted, without thought for how crass or inaccessible he might appear, and most times he didn't answer what was asked. His refreshing dissection of questions often heard on entertainment shows stripped the shiny, happy veneer from the self-indulgent ritual of celebrity interviews.

Here was a man that I would like to sit down and talk with. He was genuine, he was real, and he was not using the interview as a tool to further his career. He said it annoyed him when fans think that knowing a few details about a person's life or a few of their songs makes them think that they know you. As the interview continued, I became increasingly aware of the strange language and attitudes that accompany the celebrity culture we are accustomed to seeing and hearing all around us. Just pick up any magazine or watch one of the numerous talent shows populating the channels and you will be inundated by it. And here was one man who wasn't buying into it, who pointed out that the questions and assumptions the interviewer brought were somewhat ridiculous and pointless.

Tonight in my reformation class, the professor warned us against thinking that we know something about a historical figure because we have heard certain things about them or know some of their followers. Calvin and Luther would probably turn over in their graves if they knew that people called themselves Calvinists or Lutherans. These men never wanted celebrity nor a movement named after them. They wanted truth, they wanted faith, and they wanted Jesus to be real and accessible to everyone. They took inspiration from teachings that had come before them, studied tirelessly, and did what they thought was right and necessary. These were complex and authentic men, great and small at the same time. They were not ecclesiastic mavericks nor one-trick theologians. What is it about us humans that makes us want to nail someone to a pedestal or inflate a caricature of one tiny part of their life?

What ever happened to just plain getting to know someone? I suppose it is too time-consuming and perhaps a bit disappointing, because we inevitably find out that they are very much like us. We would rather have the wow-factor than some authenticity. I suppose Jesus knew exactly what that particular appetite looked like. He saw a lot of it.

I guess that is one of the reasons I am in university - to get past the peripheral stuff that I think I know and to really take the time to KNOW, or at least, begin to know. Goodbye, celebrity Jesus and his mighty followers. Hello, great big stack of reading.
This is my friend's cat with Buddy Christ, made famous by the movie, Dogma.

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