Sunday, October 14, 2012

Celebrities, Artists, Narcissists and the Illusion of Significance and Meaning


A few months ago on the New York Times Website, I found an essay about people telling each other about how busy they are and complaining about being busy all the time. It concludes that people engage in this behavior because it provides the illusion that they’re significant and their life has meaning. After all, if you’re so busy with commitments, you’re doing something important.

I’ve bought into this argument. I try not to complain about being busy and telling people I’m so busy when people ask me how I’ve been doing.

Having bought into so much, I’ve even bisociated this compulsion of busyness with narcissistic celebrities and artists, the ones that always want attention and have to be in the spotlight. . .but may not always have anything to show for it. Their crazy PR campaign may even have an element of an art piece.

Writers and artists capture meaning and stories in their works. Some of those works even capture enough attention to become part of tradition and cultural heritage. Art and stories become an attempt to contribute efforts into something permanent or to make that something permanent. It voices a desire for immortality and to influence the future.

I know that urge influences my desire to write and empowered career decisions I’d like to make in the future. Contributing to the transient and everyday doesn’t satisfy me. As Henry David Thoreau influenced me with a book after more than a century, I’d like to do the same for a young, impressionable mind. Even touching minds with an older person open to thoughts and experience would be cool.

I had told myself when I talked about my work and projects with people that I was simply sharing, working though a road block or even looking to see if others might have insight that I don’t. After all, that WAS what I was doing.

People would most of the time just ask why I don’t sit down and get it done. Definitely a two pronged analysis can be made:

  1. I want to look important and significant by complaining about my work
  2. People get annoyed by empty words and would rather see action and results
My explanations here definitely sound narcissistic, but I don’t think most people would see me this way. At least that’s the impression that people give me. A lot of these premises and conclusions come from overthinking more than anything. At least, I hope it’s more overthinking rather than narcissism.

Combine the elements mentioned in that opinion piece about busyness providing illusion of significance and meaning with the desire to contribute to the permanence of heritage and tradition through my writing. My sense of significance and meaning has a level of illusion to it until the future, possibly after my lifetime. Imagine people who either don’t have any material to present, still working hard on presenting said material or present material or lots of material that gets exposed to critics. Maintaining motivation with no or negative results can get discouraging and impact confidence or self-esteem.

In this case, an illusion can provide more benefits than negative. I have mentioned in the past that people often live with an illusion of inflated worth and meaning. The busyness linguistic illusion probably works into that. As does probably getting yourself seen, seen with adulated people, letting other people know about your big (maybe even highly pretentious) projects, coming off as a style maven, a trend setter, going to the big social events and all types of things.

These things may have a loose connection to permanence (you have to know people, after all). We have to ask ourselves, though, how much are people in the spotlight trying to maintain an illusion of significance and meaning? If an artist or celebrity didn’t have that outlet, what would happen? Does an artist or celebrity really just want a taste of that significance and meaning, or do they want to make it happen?

I like to think that they want to make it happen. I don’t think it’s that horrible that they want the illusion until it really happens. Sometimes people have to fake it until they make it.

Everyone, though, should get a chance to drink from that goblet of meaning and significance. There’s a reason why celebrities and attention-seeking artists get viewed as narcissists. . ..


LINKS OF NOTE: The ‘Busy’ Trap – New York Times, bisociation, Henry David Thoreau