April 17th, 2011

Mistaking Obnoxious for Interesting

All that glitters is not gold.”
—William Shakespeare

In a land plagued by reality TV, tabloids, gossip and celebrity culture, we are often confused about where our attention is manipulated directed. People behaving badly get our time, our energy, our mindshare.

The moments we could be getting inspired by interesting people, participating in events we can learn from, being in places we can matter and noticing opportunities to achieve get much less attention.

What’s Interesting? Who’s Interesting?

You know what’s inspiring. What challenges you to better things. Who you learn from. What makes your eyes well up with tears. These are the things we wish we would’ve done or thought of first. The things we aspire to be. Heroic things. People who are making a difference in the lives of others.

Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.”
—Saul Bellow

What you see on weekly celebrity gossip tabloids doesn’t fall into these categories 99 times out of 100 (and maybe that 1% margin is generous). Just think of all the factoids about entertainment celebrities are stuffed in your head taking up space that could be repurposed for something useful.

So why do we watch a train-wreck? There’s only so much “learning what not to do” that one can do. Though we are engineered to care more about danger (hence, what to avoid), we also seem to be addicted to judging other people’s trainwrecks while ignoring our own. We give our ego a break for a moment by averting our eyes from our own troubles and focusing on the troubles of others. This is a powerful addiction. It’s oh-so-hard to face our own stuff. Any time we can find someone who’s falling down in ways that we’re not at risk of doing, we can feel safely ensconced in our own ego.

Assessing the damage

In our appetite for gossip, we tend to gobble down everything before us, only to find, too late, that it is our ideals we have consumed, and we have not been enlarged by the feasts but only diminished.”
—Pico Iyer

When we’re looking at (or for) the obnoxious, what are our eyes being averted from? What beauty, what art is not being created, noticed or celebrated? Do we know the difference between what grabs our attention and what true, fulfilling interests we no longer have time for?

Photo Credit

Confess . Discipline