Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon and Kate Gosslin, the trap of fame, and freedom

Locating freedom in action leaves the individual unchanged; the individual trapped by personal history, and a self constructed by the past or desires. Manny, indeed most of us, recognizes that the self defined either by desires, the past or both will lead to a shallow life. Take a look at reality TV. Hasn't become a collection of hubris punctuated by justification? Jon and Kate Gosselin protest that they are parading their lives in front of the camera for the kids; fame and fortune are the not the reason, they claim. Too bad that shame in not a product placement. It is also sad to see the Gosselin in prison of their own making, trap by their own personas warped by their desires, their pasts and their delusions. They are neither tragic nor comic but trap in a puragtory between the tragic and comic. They are all too human.

The problem of living in a consumer culture, which forces us to turn ourselves into products on a grocery shelf, no better than toothpaste, becomes more toxic when we try to understand freedom as an action. We are force to sell ourselves in almost all human encounters, and then at the same time, any challenge to our desires is view as oppression. One needs to be desired in order to get what one desires. The trap is sprung. We are left thinking of own branding, of marketing our being, afraid of the other. Is it any wonder we value authenticity in such a false desert. We are called to define the self by one of three things: by what others say, which we must guard like a marketing director, by what we have, which announces that we have freedom, because we gotten what we want, and by our control over others, as in a competitive world one controls or is controlled. And such is our freedom, such is the way we define the self, such as the way we lack any true freedom as we are being defined by our a false self.

Christianity differs in its view of freedom in that freedom comes from a radical reordering of the self. Jesus was misunderstood by the way he called for his followers to be born again. In the third chapter of John's Gospel he converses with Nicodemus about this topic. In the very next chapter, he encounters the woman at the well. The woman then under goes this very rebirth. No longer just the disgraced woman of the town, she leads the town bay to Jesus. Freedom then comes from love and relationship to the Divine. She is transformed and no longer her false self. If there is no transcending of the self, then freedom is but an idea, hope or prison.

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