As my years on the planet increase and my spiritual practice deepens, I become more and more aware of the gift celebrities play for us in our lives. These are my insights:
1. They have the courage to be seen.
As a magnet for our sight, we give them permission to set our fashion trends. How often have you seen a scarf or blouse on a celebrity and said to yourself “I want one like that?” Or, have gone to a hairdresser to say “I’d like a Dorothy Hamil, Farrah Fawcett or Jennifer Aniston cut? The light side of the celebrity’s willingness to be seen is the bringing forth of beauty into our lives. The darker side is when we are hesitant to look within our own selves, we will likely hoist our opinion and judgement externally toward another. Celebrities are great lightening rods, just mention the name “Sarah Palin” and you will get a strong reaction of support or disgust.
2. They are willing to be heard. Public figures words go down in history. Right now I can Google quotes from many writers, artists, politicians, those who share a public stage. We are willing to hear their voice and opinion. In taking a stand for their own beliefs, we may be inspired to do the same. Their voice becomes an instrument for change and possibility. As a musician, such as Whitney, we literally heard her voice on the radio or our albums throughout the 80s. And, her voice, at that point in her career was pure angel. The clarity which she hit a note and held it; radiance.
3. They create shared cultural memories. I can ask my parents’ generation where they were when they learned John F. Kennedy was assassinated and they can tell you. Not only where they were, but the way the air felt in the room and what was happening within their bodies. The recall is incredible. Many Americans can say the same with the inauguration of Barak Obama. Even those who didn’t vote for him can articulate the power of having our first mixed race president. Celebrities are willing to be a symbol for us associated with a time in history.
As I’ve watched the news unfolding about Whitney’s death, most commentators say “her music was the background of my youth.” I too can say this. In the mid-80s, we couldn’t go out to a restaurant without hearing Whitney’s music welcoming us in. All of my friends owned her albums. We went to see the movie the Body Guard while listening to her belt out her powerful songs.
4. They can teach us about living. Again, all of these insights happen with our permission. Whitney’s life was public. She walked the story of a mega-star who became an addict. Publicly we got to see the impact of addiction, the struggle with sobriety, and ultimately the death of a mother, woman, daughter, and singer.
My faith brings me to a place of peace, knowing that her struggles are over and she experiences Divine Peace. I bring her family into my prayers, knowing they will walk a path of grief together. And, I take a moment to pause with a grateful heart for the gift of music she brought into my youth.