Photo Credit: Pablo GarciaSaldaña

Gossip Will Not Transform Us Into Gods

We watch the TV screen like gods and judge and say “Ha! You’re so small.” We feel so good ridiculing these people and seeing the cameras follow them around 24 hours a day. It’s fun seeing how small a human being can become under pressure. It feels so good because deep down inside we feel small and it hurts less when the people on TV are small too…And as oppressed as we are, ‘Well, THAT guy is a disaster.’ It makes us feel better, but it’s all a facade because none of us are small.”-Brian Baruch

A strong and healthy sense of self-esteem can never be erected on a foundation of criticism, gossip, and hatred. When we base our feelings of personal significance on our ability to point out deficiencies in others, we sacrifice our true dignity in exchange for a second-rate status that will only be as good as another person’s bad.

We sell ourselves short when we allow other people’s perceived idiocy to occupy valuable space in our consciousness while our own brilliance remains neglected.

Criticism, gossip, and hatred are not diseases we need to be cured from. They are simply symptoms of our failure to be sufficiently fascinated with our own lives. Each of us has the potential to positively influence the world through our unique combination of talents, convictions, and experiences. That simple fact is far more worthy of our attention than another individual’s bad hair day, failed relationship, or scandalous behavior, but it tends to get drowned out by all the voices making sure we’re aware of the last time Kanye West might have put his own foot in his mouth. Is this truly the highlight of our week? Who are you and I capable of becoming if we give more attention to our own personal growth than to what some celebrity was seen eating for lunch?

You and I don’t need to hear embarrassing stories about professional athletes in order to know that we’re not alone in our own struggles with human frailty.

You and I don’t need to see rock stars getting caught on camera as they’re making dumb-sounding statements in order to know that our own minds are filled with vast potential.

You and I don’t need to see gorgeous supermodels getting dumped by their lovers in order to know that we’re beautiful in our own unique way.

You and I don’t need to hear about high-profile divorces in order to feel hopeful about the possibilities of our own search for true love.

There is no need to attack anyone else’s intelligence or integrity in order to affirm our own. Our worth as human beings doesn’t depend on the latest piece of evidence exposing someone else’s imperfection. We are who we are, regardless of what popular people say and do, because of how we choose to focus our time, energy, and attention.

This is not a manifesto for how shallow, stupid, or superficial celebrities, television shows, and gossip magazines are. A little TMZ or Perez Hilton here and there is probably harmless in the grand scheme of things, but they become alarmingly dangerous when we rely on them to cope with an unresolved sense of inadequacy. Unfortunately, we often use gossip as a preemptive strike against self-examination. That is, we frequently slander others as a means of avoiding confrontation with our own shadows. Rather than face our own demons of self-doubt and self-condemnation, we opt for dragging other people’s skeletons into the light of public scrutiny.

Terence McKenna offered the following prescription for our cultural malaise:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is sh*t-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations…your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”

I advocate a much softer approach than McKenna, but the underlying sentiments are the same:

Enjoy the wonderful novelties and trends of popular culture, but don’t forget about yourself in the process. Celebrities are cool, but so are you. Their lives are exciting, but so is yours. And if your life isn’t exciting, you have the power to make it so. Build your own icons. Make up your own myths. Start your own walk of fame. Be your own gossip magazine and focus on stars that illuminate and invoke your own radiance. Embrace the radical idea that you will never find a celebrity scandal that is as interesting and fascinating as the possibilities of your own life.

Why be content with throwing tomatoes at bad performers when you can take the stage and share the gift of your own brilliance? Why settle for sitting in the peanut gallery and gloating in the failings of others, when you can live a life that inspires someone else to be their best?

Our need for significance will never be fully satisfied through gossip. Our deepest desires and ambitions will be fulfilled not by tearing others down, but by lifting ourselves up. Gossip will not transform us into gods. If we wish to realize the full scope of human potential, we’ll have to do the hard work of loving ourselves, healing ourselves, respecting ourselves. and refusing to use other people’s faults as an excuse for running away from the responsibility of owning up to our own greatness.