Fame and the decline of religion

Great interview of Russell Brand by Jeremy Paxman.

Russell Brand, though wanting fame from a very early age, recognises that “fame in and of itself has absolutely no value”. He makes the interesting comment that the idea to be famous came not from inside him but from the culture around him. Fame is there he says to distract us from the mundaneness and meaninglessness of life – “bread and circuses” [Thought I knew what this meant but had to check. It is a reference to keeping people happy through superficial means, like in Rome when the Emperors made sure people had food and fun in the games. People were less likely to notice cracks appearing in public life and as the Roman Empire slid into decline the people were kept happy with bread and circuses. ]

Jeremy Paxman posits the idea that we have this fame culture because of the decline of religion. Russell points to the “pantheon of celebrities” that we have now. It’s true they are rather like the greek gods.

Jeremy : “famous people appear to have significance and previously it was religion that gave people that sense of significance”

Jeremy : “What happens when fame arrives?”

Russell  : “you have the initial thrill of achievement. The same as if you had acquired a pair of shoes that you had long craved. Then you realise you need a source of nutrition from a higher source”

Russell : “I grew up wanting to be famous and now I am famous what does it mean? ‘Ashes in my mouth’ …We have within us an desire for something higher…someone once told me that the all desire is the desire to be at one with God in substitute form”.

I love the way he drops vivid literary gems into his everyday speech. Eating ashes is a biblical theme (Psalm 102:9 and especially Isaiah 44:20) and indicates that something that looked good and was grasped at turns out to be as dry and dead and unnutritious  and tasty as ash. What looked life giving turns out to have had all the life removed from it.  It’s used like this in Paradise lost:.

Suddenly into Serpents, according to his doom given in Paradise; then, deluded with a shew of the Forbidden Tree springing up before them, they, greedily reaching to take of the Fruit, chew dust and bitter ashes”. John Milton (1608–1674).

It is true we need nutrition from a higher source. Jesus said “man does not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God” Mat 4:4. That is interesting. There is something substantial about words. God’s words are a means of imparting life to us. The gospel, the good news about Jesus and the way back to God that is offered, brings new life.

We so need to eat good, true, life giving words to live. It’s worth checking out your diet.

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