Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nobody Special


Fame is a national preoccupation. We chase after recognition like it's the last train out of Camden. Playing the game isn't enough―you've got to dunk on ESPN. Getting elected to office requires raising at least as much image as money or ideas.  Even inanimate objects get famous: when Hostess stopped making Twinkies, the public reacted as if we'd lost a legend.

As pack animals, it's natural to want some form of social embrace, an identity within the group.  Clearly, I strive to be noticed or you wouldn't be reading this; joining act and audience is emotionally nourishing and completes the creative cycle.

Ego is a potent element, though, and becomes quickly poisonous like as much chlorine. Self-confidence might drive a ballplayer to the majors, but the team loses when he comes to value home runs and sponsorships over the pennant.  Some of our representatives enter public service with service at heart, only to have years of self-branding so thoroughly convince them of their own campaign slogans that they lose track of their policies' greater impact. 

A measure of humility must balance self-worth, or else competition exceeds cooperation, and the ship sinks as everyone fights to be captain.

That said, as a high school teacher, I want my students to be proud and determined, to innovate, to lead.  Of course.  At the same time they should be aware that, however brightly their individual interest burns, it's a pixel in a larger screen that affects everyone's picture, and there are times when the integrity of a task is more important than taking credit for the result. Furthermore, if attention is what they're after, posting shirtless selfies or skateboarding off a clock tower is a counterproductive way to get it.

Periodically, we need a break from ourselves as much as the greater good needs respite from our ambition.  It's an act of liberation, really, to relinquish title and be no one in particular.

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4 comments :

  1. Martin,
    You are a very thoughtful dude. Don't know if this is inspired by the unprecedented display of ego (and incomprehensible acceptance of it) unfolding in our presidential race, but I hear what you are saying.
    It seems the norm has become living in an amped-up, competitive, bigger-than-life mode.
    I think we need to get in touch with the inner realms (not talking religion), where ego has no foothold.
    Your friend,
    Nobody Special :)

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    1. This one was written a couple years back, but it's become an even more ludicrous American problem since then. : - / >

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  2. I love the pixel analogy.
    Very timely!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. I wish it weren't so damn timely... : - / >

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