‘American Idol’ is a distraction from those who really matter
As the last living person not watching “American Idol,” I’ve been quaking and balking lately at the prospect of having all the squelch and squawk of it return to my living room in a few months.I’m not musical. I’m not sure what it means to be “a little pitchy” and I’m not sure I’d recognize one if I saw it on the street.I have been called a curmudgeon before on the Letters page of this publication, and I felt at the time that that badge was simply undeserved. As far as “Idol” is concerned, however, I know I do deserve the Grouch label and will happily sport it. What’s most troubling about having to wear that label is that even though I don’t take doses of “Idol,” I know enormous amounts of trivial information about it gathered through osmosis, thereby increasing its annoyance. My complaint about all of this is actually quite simple. We live in an era of instantaneous communication, where anyone can be catapulted into (or torn from) overnight stardom for seemingly any reason at all. Turns out many of our cultural prophets were more or less right (Marshall McLuhan and Andy Warhol among their ranks), only their wisdom was not spoken with foreknowledge about the pervasive and viral influence of the Internet technology that would prove them right millions of times a day.We seem to have forgotten that for most of us, our work is cumulative throughout our lives, and so is our reward. If your slogging through life seems unfair because shows like “American Idol” make millionaire stars out of people plucked seemingly off the streets in the time it takes you to make pancakes – well, all things being equal, it might be unfair. But remember that success has its own dark side as well. Folks like Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks are likely no happier than you or I, and indeed may be less so when you think about the hassles with which they must regularly contend.Here’s Aesop on the subject: “A certain Man had a Goose that laid him a golden egg every day. Being of a covetous turn, he thought if he killed his Goose he should come at once to the source of his treasure. So he killed her and cut her open, and great was his dismay to find that her inside was in no way different to that of any other Goose.”It’s not only “Idol.” It’s the whole elevation-to-celebrity phenomenon that had ought to be making us uncomfortable (yet if the ratings are any indication, clearly are not). Not only do we go hunting for the source of our treasure, we forget even as we sharpen our knives that our geese are actual people. The television or computer screen may reduce them to dimensions we feel we can manipulate – and they may even be willing participants in that process – but is that what’s best for us to concentrate on? Is that ultimately a sustainable picture or an accurate reflection of who we are?There’s something fundamentally unholy to me about a contest in which it is guaranteed that one person will ultimately prove him- or herself worthy of our attention and affection. If we understood the inherent worth of not just this pretty face or that great voice, but in fact each and every life, then perhaps we’d be more inclined to give everyone their shot, their fair share, their chance at giving something substantial and lovely to the world.If the scales should one day fall from my eyes, and if I should join the other seven billion people who already know I’m wrong, I will happily print a retraction and eat a healthy plate of crow. For now, though, please keep your audition material to the shower.The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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