A little while ago, I walked to the supermarket and walking towards me was a young man who had bright red dreadlocks, red and white broad striped trousers and a really baggy colourful jumper as well as big boots on that had been spray painted… As I walked past him I smiled politely as I like to do with fellow members of the human race… He only looked up for the briefest of moments and got eye contact, tutted loudly, huffed a big exhale, muttered about “people staring” and then re-adopted his insular pose, head down staring at the ground, really not wanting anyone to see him at all.
I didn’t get it.
If he did not want to be looked at or smiled to, then perhaps he had chosen the wrong garish line of clothing.
Did you ever see a BBC TV show called Tittybang? it featured a comedy character who was a french maid who would behave provocatively and in ways that got people’s attention, but then insisted that people do not look at her because she was shy:[youtubevideo id=”Y2WVu6A-Fvw”]
Both these examples I highlight here, sum up the incongruence I am writing about today and the dilemma I face often.
My Grandfather lived on a farm cottage for most of his life. He worked on the farm, and worked long hours all year round. He loved spending time with his family and cherished the laughter we had together in the pub. He told funny stories and jokes, he had a glow about him that reflected contentment and an open-hearted nature. In the latter of years of his retirement he relocated to be nearer family who could help him and my Nana in their remaining years. In that short time, everyone he met liked him because he smiled, laughed and exuded kindness – to friends and strangers.
I remember one discussion with him and my Dad when I was quite young, when I initially thought him quite náive. We were chatting and joking about a celebrity scandal in the news and my Grandfather commented ‘who would want to be famous?!’ At the time, as I said, I thought this was unworldy of him and yet more evidence of him not ever having had ambition. I suspect many, especially of the younger generation would think just as I did then.
He had a contentment about him though and a sense of satisfaction that I have seen in very few people from our Western culture.
Today, I look around at the number of bloggers whose work I regularly follow, the thousands of tweets, the hubs, the forums, the interaction on Facebook, MySpace and all the other outlets for expression… There seems to be a mass of ‘look at me’ activity, a striving for attention.
Due to (though not exclusively because of) the nature of my business and desire for it to succeed, I often find myself caught in that web of self-promotion, as I go about marketing my work and my own personality.
It is sometimes difficult to balance the often dry content of what I am writing or teaching with the person I am as the writer and teacher and hypnotherapist. My Grandfather never sought any kind of recognition, and his ease and levels of fulfilment were obvious. His life was not perfect, not by any means, but I hope I illustrate the quandry that arrives as a result of modern living in this kind of field of work and the nature of scoiety that we find ourselves in today.
For some, they pretend they don’t like the attention, but want to set themselves apart for some reason and as such bring attention upon themselves. For others, it is essential to be recognised in all manner of ways… Why is seeking recognition so prominent in this western culture of ours?
I mean, in his latest autobiography, Keith Richards talks about how utterly shy he was and many accounts of the people around him show this to be true. it is often the quirks of people in the limelight, not necessarily wanting the attention, that gets the attention….
A Pew poll that I recently had pointed out to me shows that ‘getting famous’ is one of the top 2 goals of graduating high school students in the US. This has increased over the recent decades if you study previous editions of the same poll.
Does this mean something else gets sacrficed? Are things like general well-being, spiritual and emotional sustinence, respect for ourselves, fun and joy being left behind? Am I living in a dream land even suggesting such?
Attention grabbing seems the way to progress, some people make careers out of that alone it seems. Celebrities are front-page news regardless of what they do to get there; some are famous merely by their ability to become famous. The top two TV shows in the UK today are one which features celebrities dancing and another which makes people into celebrities. (Though I loved the reference to ‘Plebrities’ in this months Viz comic, referring to people that regardless of how famous they become, remain true to their ‘unworldly’ roots).
The guy I referred to on the street at the beginning of this entry today is an embodiment of much of the issue I perceive here. We are learning that attention is important, but not really understanding the reasons why, the rationale for how to celebrate being ourselves… Being unique is something we can experience without being gregarious or ostentatious, for example.
Perhaps it is the being one person in amongst 6 billion that makes it tough to stand out… and those that do stand out get celebrated so greatly in our increasingly accessible forms of media, where we all are vying for some of that attention.
When I was a young boy, when discussing superpowers with my pals, we all used to agree that being invisible was up there as one of the best superpowers to have… Oh, the things we’d plan to do if only we were invisible… I suspect that very few people would actually consider invisibility a real benefit today.
It is a big dilemma for me… If I were anonymous, my business would fail. Yet I do believe that an increased level of anonymity would do us all a bit of good. I am vowing that when I take my wife away to New York for a few days later this month… I am going to keep away from facebook and twitter… But then again, who will I share all my cool pics with?