Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Them?

Last week I wrote a post that explored the inherent strangeness of fame,celebrity, and notoriety.  We don't think it's strange that there is such a thing as famous people only because we are used to living in a world where individuals achieve fame.  If all of us made a list of the people that we know, we could then subdivide the list into two further lists--people we know and people that we don't know.  Our way of life would be dramatically altered if the latter list was stricken from our minds.  Our national conversation revolves around the premise that the lives, or at the very least the personas, of certain individuals are shared in common.  But I'm still hung up on the fact that the odds of becoming a name on that list are mind-bogglingly small, and then to sustain fame over a protracted length of time is even more challenging.  I'm interested in the psychology of those who find themselves in such rarified circumstances.

Of course, everything becomes normalized over time.  Mick Jagger has been a celebrity for such a ridiculously long stretch of time that I'm sure he's grown quite accustomed to the role. And for those who have achieved his stature, the genie can't be put back into the bottle.  For better or worse, he'll always be on the list of people who other people know but don't actually know.  And this reality shapes every aspect of his existence.  I'm sure it's the same for lottery jackpot winners.  Assuming they don't squander their winnings (which I grant is a big assumption), after a certain passage of time the lotto winner will get used to the new reality, they will no longer think it strange they have a sudden windfall in their bank account, but again, this new status quo will shape every aspect of their existence for the rest of their life.

So what I've always wondered--just as victims of misfortune might be tempted to pose the question, "Why me?", do those who see such a radical alteration of reality pose the same question.  To not pose such a question would seem to imply that they have been especially favored by mysterious forces, that their destiny was inevitable.  But could it be that in posing the question, the implication becomes explicit?

Next week I'll explore whether this is the case.


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