Iâ€™ve been wrestling with my love for pop culture lately. Iâ€™m sorry. I canâ€™t help it: (hereâ€™s the part where I apologize for something I enjoy) I enjoy it. It Every time I go to the gym I pick up the Mag of the Moment and check out whatâ€™s going on with Lindsay, Brittany and Jen this week. In trying to label the mixed emotions I feel, I can pinpoint similarities to the emotions of guilt, shame and gluttony…until I look around me and realize Iâ€™m putting that same mojo on all my stair-stepping buddies. As a Libra rising with a strong sense of fairness, that doesnâ€™t seem right of me. And neither do those â€œfeelingsâ€ seem adequate descriptors. So being of a homeopathic mindset, having learnt symptoms tell more about the disease than the ego readily admits, I put the shell up to my ear and hear an ocean (walking intoÂ Saturday’s New Moon/Neptune quincunx is a little like that). Whereas the ego would prefer the pat label rather than sit down and dive into the â€œsymptomâ€ with a nice cup of tea (it keeps everything much more cleanly neurotic that way, ya know?) Cancer New Moon has way too much intuitive capacity to let the ego pull that one over on her. Sheâ€™s just a simple gal who loves her celebs, so whatâ€™s the big dealio?
Whatâ€™s your enigmatic mystery this New Moon? With Neptune opening up the etheric portal to heavenly, but quite pleasant tasting conundrums, thereâ€™s bound to be one. Here, you can have my guilty pleasure. Letâ€™s lean into this so-called guilt. As defined by Webster.com feeling guilty is, (having) feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy: self-reproach. If my offenses are seemingly imagined, could Iâ€™ve even possibly conjured them up alone? Not to pass the buck, but soulful Cancer is notoriously psychic, sponging food unconsciously off her familial mother or mother country. Cancerâ€™s umbilical cords reach deep into our collective family. Places, like people, have soul – youâ€™ve felt that. And surely as America has a Collective Soul, she suffers from soullessness, too. Grief, trauma, unprocessed life events separating oneself from oneâ€™s Self has a way of detracting, nay, hi-jacking nourishing soul consciousness. Jung called this neglected self the Shadow. And when we cut it off from our bright and â€œacceptableâ€ side it turns the most colorful, lively day a soulless grey. A strange malaise ensues in that disconnect between past personal (or collective) history â€“ which if not carefully tended to – all sorts of strange demons threaten to dispossess the Soul of her natural beauty.
Even Tyra Banks knows this (I heard her say so while watching Americaâ€™s Next Top Model at the gym). Tyra told a Model contestant that her pictures lacked soul. In her larger than life Olympian way (which magically sounds like the authoritative voice of Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty herself) Tyra said, â€˜Iâ€™m concerned about you. Thereâ€™s so much beauty in there, but I feel like youâ€™re hiding it. Youâ€™re missing soul. And the camera wonâ€™t lie – people will see this.â€™ This earth shaking comment pulled a big brother confessional out of the young contestant. It turns out this budding flower had been through rough times. In pictures shown of her recent past, a partying, self-destructive girl raged out of control. Being on Americaâ€™s Next Top Model was her chance to start over, she said, but to do this she had to hide this former self. Her honest self-awareness struck me, as well as her predetermined awareness of whatâ€™s beautiful to the beauty culture. There was no room for an anger-binging teenager on Top Model, she knew this. No, that wouldâ€™ve been ugly and this is about beau-tay. But her shielded personality wore the slightest trace of rage, obvious to the camera, judges and viewers. And miraculously – maybe it was only me who saw it -once her hidden self was outed the young woman began to look more congruent, whole.
Hereâ€™s what also occurred to me: America and her people has and is, suffering loss of soul by disowning its violent nature. This model contestant is a mirror for where we are. We are all connected to one anotherâ€™s plight, and to a deeper collective consciousness. How can we take personal responsibility for all of it? (Weâ€™re women, so we try.) Itâ€™s like our women sister souls are trapped in the static painting of a dollhouse and every once in awhile the window mysteriously lights up bright orange signaling the house is on fire. Weâ€™ve got to garner enough disbelief to reach for our magnifying glasses, to pull up a chair to look within…and discern the message behind the message â€œHelpâ€ written on the window pane.
I own that I am channeling some of Americaâ€™s soullessness. There is a huge chasm between the monstrosities of Americaâ€™s checkered rageaholic past and present – a country that runs for their guns every time the checkbook is threatened AND so happens to be the entertainment capital of the world. Gosh, no wonder Iâ€™m feeling so guilty. Iâ€™m partaking of that national sedative: celebrity, the elixir of youth and forgetfulness. In that awestruck seduction of Gisele Bundchen on the latest edition of my Victoriaâ€™s Secret Catalog (love her) or Angelina wearing mercurial silver satin sheets on the cover of GQ, I forget everything. Feels like a Martini, silky and dry, tastes just as intoxicating. Mmmm. Since I no longer drink, Iâ€™m considering that celebrity may have become my substitution.
But does the awareness that Iâ€™m swimming in it absolve me from my responsibility to the collective shadow? Our personal lives are an answer to it. I remember an assignment I had in art school, to create an Absolute Vodka ad (at my little South Carolinian private college, my art teacher was a set designer from L.A. no less). I penciled out 3 images: one was a woman crawling on the floor in high heels as a slimy looking guy in aviator glasses watched with a clear sense of ownership from behind her; second, a sad looking little boy with a golden crown on his head stood alone in a dark, thorny forest (I transposed creeping thorns into blood veins); third, my 84 year-old Grandmotherâ€™s open hands. A red bullâ€™s eye/ spiral hypnotically unified the images, in front of which I photo-transferred a larger than life bottle of ABSOLUTION. The image speaks more directly to what Iâ€™m writing about now than I can express in words. The hypnotic beauty of desire, the self or selves violently left behind in the brambles and the blood and life force rushing through, threatening to encroach on everything growing and good. The power and energy bound up in self-forgetfulness, the passing of time and empty wisdom. Or the open hands of opportunity, to finally be forgiven, to be cared for in the full circle of time. To the addict, the bottle of ABSOLUTION and ABSOLUT are one and the same. To the lucid dreamer, the soul who honors her place in the circle no matter where she is within it knows, as John Malkovich said, â€œthe ghosts you chase you never catch.â€ Just ask any artist.
So there you have it. Just like this New Moonâ€™s quincunx, I donâ€™t know how to â€œget overâ€ or resolve the pop culture intoxication from whence Iâ€™m swimming. I may never be able to. But if you consider, as Andy Warhol did, pop culture, art, and in that art mirrors life, maybe celebrity and pop culture is just another mirror to bounce reflections off of. Or maybe thatâ€™s just a tricky quincunx excuse so I can hit the bottle again. If I am partaking in the national pastime of self-forgetfulness, I do have to trust my own capacity to integrate and weave the fragmented stories into something a little deeper, interesting and more contextually rich than what theyâ€™re giving me. Actually, as a soulful person, thatâ€™s my job and itâ€™s yours too. I do have a few rules of operation: stay away from the dumb stuff (when I recognize it); regularly question whether Iâ€™m looking for missing pieces of myself in those slick, glossy lives or whether Iâ€™m replacing the urge to do something more valuable and productive with gossip rags. Occasionally Iâ€™ll make good art out of it all. Who knows? Maybe the spirit speaks to me through celebrity.
I too grapple with my seductive attraction to the celeb inferno. I admit, I think I go there to feel better about myself. Sort of the, “they have been given so much and they cant even get it together, the masses (who are clearly asses) dont have a chance.” Justified complacency. Sure you break it down and realize that the control group is skewed to seriously ego centric and self promoting characters. I recently heard some saying that went like we are the average of the 7 people we spend the most time with. God help me if I am dumbing down to Parisdom.
I love your sparkling wit and self-honesty, Claire! I hadn’t heard that we are the average of the 7 people we spend the most time with. but it’s an interesting self-ponder and motivator to get enough rich interaction in…I’ll let us both of the hook by qualifying it with 1) the people must be real 2) and we don’t actually spend any time with any of them…as spending time means real live in the flesh. But in this age we spend much more time with technology and information channels than real-life people…do my t.v., Esquire and web-surfing interests count as acquired selfhood?
I think the celebs are modern day Olympians…their egos and imperfections are so large…we get to witness their hubris, fall from grace. Everything they do is bigger, grander, far more fabulous AND stupid on the world stage.
Going behind the scenes to see the actor behind the character satisfies our innate snooping curiosity – and it’s an entertaining show. But the question remains: what are these characters doing for our soul? In a day when celebs can be famous not because they’ve made a great movie but for no other reason than they’re in the scene, why are we so interested? Is it like eating fast food when we have healthier alternatives? In ancient Greece, attending theater was a way of coming together to laugh, cry, mourn in solidarity, baring witness to changing times. It was live. And the actors were divine channels. We would be the chorus, active partcipants in the story. This sounds soulful. We are now a step removed, with no role to play but watch or read passively as celebrity trumps life…