Monday, September 29, 2014

Love's Illusions

So many people -- maybe all of us -- are bottomless pits of need, constantly striving to fill the void and satisfy our internal supplication. It's the rare person who can just sit quietly, alone, breathing in and out, and call that living, even though that is exactly what living is. Instead, they run around like ants pushing the dirt into a big hill, as if the hill has meaning and value simply because they made it.

Recently I encountered a huge ant hill on Facebook. I stumbled into it last month after I attended a Jackson Browne concert in Portland and wrote a review of the show. It was so great (the show, not the review) that I wanted to share it, and so posted it on two different online fan pages devoted to the popular singer-songwriter. I figured who better would enjoy hearing about his stellar performance? In order to post on the pages, I had to join, which I did; after all, I am one of his fans too.

Since then my Facebook news stream has been inundated hourly with posts about Browne. Admirers the world over worship him like a God. They talk about his songs and how the lyrics resonate with them, helping them through tough times. They nitpick about which album is the best, and which song means the most, and what phase of his career was the most intense. They share their deepest fantasies concerning him, declaring their love for the group at large because everyone else "understands" how important JB, as they call him, really is. They post pictures of Browne from the old days when he was just starting out and from right now, yesterday, last night, whenever they saw him last. The shakiest video taken at one of his concerts is met with intense gratitude and hundreds of "likes."

Mostly they ooh and aah about how handsome he was and still is, at 66, and how sweet and kind, and what a generous soul he has because he meets with his fans after his shows and actually will pose for pictures and touch them. Who else does that? What a wonderful person he is! Bear in mind that most of Browne's fans are also his peers, many of them now in their 60s and 70s. Still they go on and on about him like a teeny-bopper in love with The Bieber. And it's not just women, since men too adore him. It's almost like a Jesus thing.

I hung around for awhile out of pure amazement that gradually turned into a kind of voyeurism. While I certainly admire the man's talents, without sharing those intense feelings I felt like an onlooker to a private train wreck. The final straw was the plan, well underway, to make a giant book of personal stories of how Browne has impacted their lives and present it to him on his birthday on October 9. There was even talk of inviting him to a party to be held near his home in California, with fans from as far away as Australia vowing to attend.

These are adults, many of them grandparents. So what gives? Why do people fill their lives with hero worship? If instead every person focused on being his or her best self, things would be so much better all around, with far less depression, fewer suicides and more solutions to world problems. Instead, so many hours spent gazing into the distant lives of celebrities is draining our nation's talent pool, which seems to grow shallower every day.

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