My wife and I were in Las Vegas a few weekends back to celebrate a dear friends 40th birthday. It was a whirlwind couple of days, and I am not a big fan of crowds, or loud things, or public displays of drunkenness, so you could say that I am not a huge fan of Las Vegas on a Saturday night. However, these friends are super special us so it was worth every moment.
There was a point in the evening where our group got separated from one another because we had to take two Ubers. So my wife, I and the birthday girl got separated from the group at the Bellagio fountains. We attempted to find one another in a sea of humans and cars.
We ended up walking up into the hotel, which is extremely elegant. We passed by a roped off backdrop where you could pay money to stand with your family or friends and get your photo taken to look as if you were attending a red carpet black tie event, even though you are wearing cargo shorts and a fanny pack.
These photo ops are not just popular to do in Vegas, it’s everywhere. You can get your picture taken in front of a Macy’s backdrop at just about any shopping mall down the street.
It’s no big deal of course, and I am sure it’s fun to have as your Facebook profile picture, but it does point to a certain reality about the culture we live in.
A culture obsessed with popularity and fame.
Not just fitting in, but being somebody famous has become a cultural obsession.
Reality TV is certainly proof of this. People will over turn their lives and air their dirty laundry (literally and figuratively) on national television, just so they can be recognized at the Wal-Mart.
There is a very deep longing in all of us to be recognized, to be seen as valuable and wanted, desired and perhaps, famous.
This is not all bad; of course, we all struggle with having a sense of purpose, finding meaning and feeling like we are adding value to the world around us. It is just that many have come to believe that sense of purpose is to be found by becoming renowned.
If you haven’t seen the movie “Fight Club” (1999) based off the book by Chuck Palahniuk, I highly recommend it -unless you are easily offended by strong language and blood. Then you will just have to trust me when I say, it’s not the movie for you.
The movies main character is Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt and in this scene, he rants to his alter ego (played by Edward Norton).
“I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. G** damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s**t we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
Amazingly poignant for a 17 -year-old movie!
Since “Fight Club” came out, this idea that we can all be something that only one percent will ever be, is even truer. This lotto mentality that causes us to think that our big break is just over the next horizon keeps people in a state of chasing the mirage of importantness (yes I made that word up).
I am certainly not suggesting that it is somehow wrong to pursue a passion or career that may end up making us famous. I am however, disputing the notion that being well known in our society will, in anyway, fill the void in our hearts that needs to feel accepted and loved.
We live in a culture that asks us on a minute-by-minute basis to find our worth in status, power, and wealth. It asks that of us, not because it is good for us, or is even plausible, but to provide those asking with more status, power and wealth.
I understand how hard life is. I understand our tendency to chase the need to feel a sense of significance, however, I believe that unless that significance comes from anything other than our relationships (family, friends, God) it will be remain a frustratingly, unquenchable thirst.