Living in the colosseum
In ancient Rome, gladiators fought for glory in the Colosseum as thousands of fans cheered on. Every gladiator fought with only one goal: to win the crowd and keep them entertained. A man’s skull would be crashed to a pulp but the fans still cheered on – chanting names of the barbarian soldier who came out alive.
The gladiator would look up to his fans and thump his chest, the taste of blood fresh in his mouth and his demons clenched in his fist. He would smile at his odd predicament – a prisoner in the Roman dungeons and yet a hero in the Colosseum. He had earned his place in the Roman hall of fame.
Fame teases the mind of any man. It is like heroine; once you are hooked it is hard to get out. But fame is fatal. The heroic gladiator today would be the dead man tomorrow, surpassed by an even stronger gladiator. Today, ancient Rome is merely a history site but we are as much part of the Colosseum like the Romans were centuries ago. We are all like gladiators fighting for a taste of fame (even just a brusque feeling of it).
The modern perception of fame is retarded. It can be as shallow as posting a nude photo on the internet or as misguided as making a sex tape. It can be as naïve as posting an irrational tweet in the hope of stirring a debate or it can be subtle as having the highest number of friends on Facebook.
Fame has spiralled out of control; it has transitioned to an unhealthy obsession with the world around us. They have to know my name. They have to see me. They have to like me. We are fixated with being crowd pleasers even at the cost of our own sanity. This kind of obsession has been the prerequisite of self-destruction among many people. And one thing has always been clear – if you make fame an object of pursuit, it will DESTROY you.
Death on the CNN Curve (New York Times, 1995) tells it all. Writer Lisa Belkin begins her story…IT WAS FAME that killed Robert O’Donnell… O’Donnell was a common man whose life changed when he freed 18 month –old Jessica McClure from an underground tunnel where she had been stuck for three days. This rescue turned O’Donnell into an overnight hero as every TV station, radio station and newspaper scrambled for the story.
What nobody told O’Donnell was that fame has a sadistic side – it doesn’t last forever. When the attention and the cameras finally went away, a damaged man was left behind. Belkin writes…a man so changed by fame that he no longer belonged in his world but not changed enough that he could leave that world behind… Eight years after the rescue, Robert O’Donnell no longer able to uphold his status put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was only 37 years old.
Just like O’ Donnell, life’s colosseum has had much power over us for years. We want a share of fame, no matter how we get it. Once we have it, we nurture our dependency on fame like it is the only thing that keeps us alive. We give and give, and the only thing we ask for in return is that the attention never fades. And when it finally does, reality kicks in. We are common people after all. But often we are high up in the clouds to acknowledge this glaring fact.
Fame has always been that fickle, one day you are in, the next day you are out. Yes, it is that ruthless! Don’t get me wrong, I am no cynic. But I grew up in the times of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana post-humus fame to know how these 20th century most famous women were destroyed by fame. Look at what fame did fame did to Marilyn Monroe – after struggling to achieve fame, she was held prisoner by her own status and finally destroyed by it. Princess Diana crashed to her death while being pursued by overly stalking paparazzi. Fatal fame is man’s own undoing.
If we could only stop living in this folly of fame, then maybe our lives would be easier. It is high time we ‘tap out’ from the Colosseum and treat shallow fame like the monster it is.
Posted on March 26, 2014, in Soul Food and tagged ancient rome, colosseum, death on the cnn curve, fame, fame monster, fatal fame, hall of fame, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Robert O'Donnell, taste of fame. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.