Flicking through “Vogue” magazine this morning, discussing it with my Italian house guest ( I know! Just another glamorous, cosmopolitan Sunday morning in my house… I could easily dispel that particular illusion with too much information! ) I was attempting to justify my extravagant one monthly purchase of that glossy tome full of clothes and accessories for the most I can only ever dream of owning, by telling him that actually, the articles in this magazine were thought provoking, and in my opinion much better than those to be found in the “lighter” women’s magazines. I keenly showed him the one I was perusing at that time, debating the morality of wearing fur that is not faux. “Ahh, yes, the others are gossip magazines” he replied, with a knowing smile, “I do not like gossip either, why would anyone want to know what a celebrity had for breakfast, anymore than they might want to know what I, Mario had for breakfast?”
An article in “The Guardian” 13th July 2013 by Simon Hattenstone, about the relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, contained an insightful quote from Helena Bonham Carter reflecting on how our attitudes to stardom have changed since the heyday of Burton and Taylor “We know too much. People dismantle people too quickly”. This matter has been much on my mind recently, this desire to know everything there is to know about our celebrities.Perhaps that is why we have replaced the word ‘star’ with the word ‘celebrity’; we do not anymore allow anyone to rest glittering among the stars, we eagerly drag them down to earth and place them under a microscope where we can analyse in tiny detail every aspect of them, until we have reduced them to dust.We allow nothing for ourselves to wonder at.
I remember a train journey a year or so ago, when I heard a four year old boy gasp in wonder at the rainbow which appeared miraculously through the clouded sky and arched its way across the lush green hills we passed through, which were all plumped up by a rain soaking. The little boy proclaimed it to be magic! His father, with I am certain the best of intentions to promote his son’s education, then began to dismantle the magic and break the spell by speaking of refracted light and science… He spoke the truth, of course, but I felt sad that the little boy could not be left truly to wonder, just for a little while.
So why do we do this? Why do we dismantle the magic and wonder of the world and others in it? Does so much information now at our finger tips and click of a mouse enhance or reduce? Perhaps, knowing facts reduces our anxieties. Uncertainty, I have learnt through my clinical practice can be one of the most uncomfortable and indeed anxiety provoking experiences for us all. Being uncertain, but still anticipating a happy outcome, can be wonderfully exhilarating, but for many of us we do not allow ourselves to anticipate a positive for fear of feeling disappointment, and so sit anxiously scanning in the dark, anticipating danger, attack and something bad happening. Possessing information can be like lighting a torch in the darkness of uncertainty, we can see what is out there the dark, we feel we can ward off any approaching demons. We now can shine not merely torches but glaring flood lights onto people and even into places we might have visited in our imagination before our feet touched ground there. We can now take a virtual tour of our chosen holiday destination months before we have even bought a ticket, even discover on screen the restaurants we might have previously happened across as if by magic. Yes, we can have even the minutest detail of information as on screen we wander the area we are are to visit,Reducing the need to use the full capacity of our imagination. leaving us little to wonder about.
We take our endless quest for information, for the answer to our every question even into the area of relationship. Dating websites for example, offer us enhanced chances of making a “perfect match” by being in possession of the facts about someone before we meet them. Equally, I wonder, does this not reduce our chances of having wonderful experiences? Have we not all at some point become close with people either in friendship, romance even the workplace, that we might never have consciously chosen to be close with, had we seen the facts on paper? The facts might be that our culture race, religion, age, social background means that on paper we do not match, but just as Helena Bonham Carter said of the stars, with too much information we can dismantle another. Relationships of all kinds often begin with the wonder and the magic of imagining how another might be, of having the courage to sit with uncertainty and to carry forward all our hopes and dreams for how that friendship, that romance could be. In attempting to have too much information do we not dismantle that wonderful, childlike ability, somewhere present within us all, to wonder and to believe still in the magic of life and relationship?