On Saturday I picked up a copy of last week’s Telegraph review supplement with a picture of a ghostly young female face with pouting red lips, framed with straight peroxide hair. The caption, ‘Excess all areas’. The sub heading: ‘Lady Gaga is the world’s biggest, brashest pop star - but… does her music measure up?’ I read the article by Neil McCormick, text framing a medley of shots of the star in a panoply of her outlandish costumes. It’s one of those pieces of writing that stays with you for days after, because it touches on issues that matter to you personally - and, not to get ahead of ourselves, you feel could even in some small way impact on your future.
For me, the whole Gaga phenomenon this article explored, stirred up a host of questions and challenges - about faith, morality, and personal dreams and ambitions.
Self-promotion - or perhaps more fairly, promotion of your act, on this kind of scale highlights questions at the heart of the whole celebrity enterprise - about pride, ego, the place of humility. Is it just massively self-serving? I don’t think it has to be. It can’t be easy to restrain the whispers of vanity on such a vertiginous ascent. But if you keep higher values and goals in mind, such as recognition that your gifts notwithstanding hard work are just that, gifts - and that limelight presents an opportunity to speak for good - surely it’s possible to be a ‘star’ and keep your soul.
On a personal note… I won’t be alone in seeing qualities in someone like Gaga that I aspire to, or at least value. It’s often things you feel you lack isn’t it? The energy, colour, pizzazz, flowering of talent through uncommonly hard graft… there’s a danger it can cast a depressing shadow over those unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, those thwarted achievements of one‘s own past. Those things you allowed to hold you back. But you - I - don’t have to stay there. You can instead rise up and say, today is the day, now is the time, I’ve been shaken from slumber, his compassions are new every morning and there are opportunities ahead. It can breathe NEW life into your dreams. Timothy was told to ‘ stir up the gift’ in him, the church at Sardis to ‘strengthen what remains and is about to die.’
Pop culture, along with sport and a host of other modern preocupations, can seem so BIG, faith and the church so small. I’m embarked on a quest, working in radio and media, to ‘re-embody’ faith and spiritual issues, in a potentially big creative fusion with mainstream popular culture. That’s one way of expressing my dream. It feels like still relatively uncharted territory, which makes it exciting. I’m still searching, the dream is still incubating.
Finally, a verse I chanced to read today put the whole topic of greatness and achievement back into healthy perspective. The path to true greatness, Jesus said, was to serve. In that, Lady Gaga is on a level with the rest of us. She’ll be ‘great’ ultimately through using her talent to serve. And in whatever sphere of life and work we move in, we’re each called to do the same.
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Jason Byrne, whirlwind Irish comedian on his radio 2 late night show last Saturday asked the audience if they were all atheists and there was a general ‘yes’ murmur - good sample of the liberal secular British populace there then! One said ‘I’m an agnostic’ and there was a collective intake of breath. Breaking rank!