Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener...

How many people are spending the evening watching the Academy Awards? (For those of you who live under rocks, that's the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual awards for the film industry, also known as the Oscars). Films, and the people involved in them, are nominated for various awards, ranging from best picture, to best actor and actress, to behind-the-scenes participants like screenwriters and soundtrack. Then, everyone who is nominated gets glammed up and attends the awards ceremony to find out who won.

Much of the media focus is on the "red carpet," which serves as an opportunity to scrutinize the biggest names in the film industry (in other words, "movie stars") as they enter the venue. Tomorrow morning's "news" will tell us who was wearing whom (as in, what designer), who looked great and who...didn't, who was poised and who made a gaff of one sort or another. Hair, makeup, teeth, shoes, handbags, significant others...nothing seems to be off-limits. 

Why are we so fascinated with the film industry's "celebrities?" 

I think it has a lot to do with a lingering dissatisfaction so many people have with their own lives. A song from Disney's Pinocchio captures the phenomenon:
The grass is always greener in the other fellow's yard
No matter what your life may be, you think your life is hard
If we could pick and choose, and nature wasn't a factor
Here's a bit of news: I'd pick the life of an actor
We look at the wealth, luxury, "fame and fortune" that come with success in the film industry and, well, we get jealous. Particularly in this economic climate, when so many people have problems related (directly or indirectly) to cash-flow, it's easy to envy the rich and famous. How much easier would life be if we didn't have to worry about student loans, or car payments, or mortgage payments, or foreclosure, or health care costs...etc? 

Actually, from my outsider's perspective, it usually doesn't seem like the rich and famous are any happier or more satisfied with life than the rest of us. In fact, sometimes it seems like they are often less so. If we think about the number of famous cases of addiction (drugs, sex, gambling - all kinds of addiction), eating disorders, self-harm, domestic violence, divorce, arrests, and untimely all points to a remarkable discontent among our so-called "celebrities." 

Why might the rich and famous not be enjoying their riches and fame? Beyond the cliched answer that money doesn't buy happiness, it probably has something to do with the pressures of being under constant scrutiny, with strangers passing judgment on everything about them, along with a sense of entitlement (they think they should be happier than is realistic, perhaps), easy access to vices, and a celebrity culture that sanctions unhealthy behavior.

In turn, average people see the glitz and glamour and think that, if they had all that money, fame, and power, all their problems would be easy to resolve. We don't stop and ask ourselves what we would do after solving our current problems - what new problems we would create for ourselves if we found ourselves rich and famous. 

Instead, maybe the answer is to practice contentment, not in spite of our problems, but in the midst of them. To accept that a certain amount of discomfort and even pain are part of life...and are actually ok, that we can be happy anyway. To value what we have and find meaning in what we do now, instead of creating an image of someone else's "perfect" life, against which we'll always fall short. Let's give up on having green grass, stop comparing, and start connecting to one another. That's where life's value comes from.

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