In my culture, being famous or recognized for some virtue by others is deemed to be spectacular good fortune. I believed this was a goal when I was younger. I was born mid 20th century when the American cultural zeigeist was saturated with entertainment and seeking attention was repeatedly seeded in young people's minds. It is easy to get confused as a child over what is valuable and has substance and what is really just sensationally titillating because of this. I lived most of my life hardly questioning the validity or the consequence of framing a value system in this way. Somewhere in the eighties I began to get clear about it.
Some celebrities seem to fall from the heavens only to have to bear the weight of never being seen but for what others want to see in them. This turns up the heat for the focus of attention and it turns into a tragic conclusion many times. Being in the cross hairs of celebrity can be a tremendous burden and stress cracks appear in those that have them. People, famous or not, sometimes still find themselves living in a shroud of not being recognized for who they truly are because we, sometimes, place ourselves in the center of great expectations in much the same way we do celebrities.
Hafiz reflects in this poem how a misunderstanding of fortune and being forced to comply to the will of expectation is a kind of heartbreaking enslavement.
Thank you for listening.
Music: The life of Amy Winehouse moves me to tears when I think of it. Here is a person who was rife with personal burdens who had to, also, bear the weight of the great expectations of others. She was a talented and charismatic woman but a child emotionally, really, and I can't wrap my mind around the injustice of her having to be so unaided and abused right under the noses of a million adoring fans. We all have something very important to witness here. We need to release ourselves from this insensate worshiping and get real about caring. Worshiping is not loving. Worshiping is burdening a human being with a story we imagine of them; in the case of celebrity, forcing them into a kind of death march if they fall out of view of that lens. We also must stop seeing addiction and mental illness as personal flaws and shameful. These are sufferings that need to be tended to. I wonder if we will we see what she has died to show us or keep demanding people feed our insatiable need to demand others to live out what we keep insisting we are unable to embody for ourselves?
The original post in this series of poems by Hafiz (including an addendum regarding the authenticity of these poems) can be found here.
The Gift: Poems by Hafiz and translated by Daniel Ladinsky can be purchased here.