Don’t do it! Don’t worship them. They have false eyes, after all. You can see them, those beautiful dolls parading themselves larger-than-life on that stage up there, but they can’t see you.
I can’t take credit for this term. In The Poisonwood Bible, an incredible and interestingly-told story by Barbara Kingsolver, one of the narrators, a daughter of the fierce evangelist Nathan Price, hears her dad talking about “false idols” this way.
Kids do that. I recall sitting in the giant back seat of our blue 1962 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (why 88?) listening to my parents talk. “Well, that’s just misleading advertising,” my mom blurted out, discussing a sign they’d seen. What did I hear? “Miss Leading advertising.” And I still wonder why that teacher, Miss Leading, would have a need to advertise, and exactly what it was she was advertising.
Well, the terms “misleading” and “false idol” came up many times in the past week for me as the sad and sordid tale of Jian Ghomeshi unfolded. It’s not the story I initially thought it was, in fact it plummeted much lower. Now all of his backers have dumped him and he’s being labelled “narcissistic”, a term not to be confused with “egocentric”.
Wikipedia, that great resource, describes an individual who is egocentric as meeting the following two criteria:
1) The individual is always under the assumption that all actions and events revolve around their existence.
2) The individual fails to acknowledge any perspectives other than their own.
What this means is that an egotist does not care about others’ opinions, whereas a narcissist, an individual who only meets the first criteria, cares greatly about the opinions of others. The term comes from Greek mythology. The hunter Narcissus, who was admired for his beauty, was led to a pond where he fell so much in love with his own reflection he drowned.
It seems quite apt, doesn’t it? To apply this to Ghomeshi as well. Narcissus was probably a great hunter, but his fixation with himself led to his death. Ghomeshi? Oh my goodness. I watched yet again his famous, and uncomfortable, interview with Billy Bob Thornton. Ghomeshi’s patience stands out, and his courage in verbalizing the questions that he felt needed asking. Former head of CBC’s English-language services, Richard Stursberg, described Ghomeshi as “so clever, so charming and so driven”. And now he’s in hiding, his lungs no doubt full of water, because he was more capable of love for that ginormous image of himself in the CBC lobby than love for another human being.
I attended “ignite your vision” on Sunday, an event hosted by London’s Mompreneurs and boasting a great line-up of female speakers. Kathy Smart, who has a zillion letters behind her name and has been on Dr. Oz, was the last one to take the stage. As she did, a big, fine image of herself came up on the big screen behind her.
“Yeah, there I am,” she said, “white teeth, long and flowing hair. All perfect. But here I am in front of you.” She runs a hand through her hair to shove it off her face, like she’s been doing all day while talking to people at her gluten free booth. Tugs at the belt of her funky top as she paces. “I’m wearing tie-dye socks because I forgot my good ones.” She reminded us that the big image of herself, or anyone we admire for that matter, is just that. An image. The truth is here, in our bodies. We are human. And to be human is to be imperfect.
As a culture, we need heroes, people to look up to, people to take us out of our quotidian (ordinary) – just learned this word from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and I’ve been dying to use it – existence. But look around you, think about what attributes a true hero should have and you’ll notice more of them in your “quotidian existence” than plastered up on the biggest of screens.
Real heroes display courage and make sacrifices for the greater good of all humanity. You probably have family and friends who do this all the time, with real eyes, eyes that actually see you, not false ones.