It’s amazing how much I don’t care about celebrities, yet I can tell you that Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, that Russell Brand is 6′ 1″, that John Mayer is half Jewish, and that Beyonce is from Texas.
I don’t want to know how many girls Ashton Kutcher cheated on Demi Moore with or who Jennifer Aniston is currently dating.
Yet by proximity, I sort of do know these things because I am somehow constantly in the Thirty Mile Zone, exposed to the essence of all this useless knowledge about famous people.
We all know that school teachers are some of the hardest working people in America, yet their earned income doesn’t support this concept. Meanwhile, the sports stars, actors, and artists we worship get paid by the millions.
The irony here is that while our government is ultimately responsible for paying our school teachers so relatively little, we as a society decide that athletes, actors, and musicians are worth the money they earn when we pay to be entertained by them.
I would love to believe I honestly don’t get all caught up in celebrity hype. Yet I think back to a few years ago when I happened to be at Whole Foods while Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were having lunch there.
Where was I? Along with others who were trying to inconspicuously take a picture of them with their cell phones. But the picture was “for my wife.” She’s a big Country music fan…
That event showed me that I was still willing to contribute to the habit of A) worshipping famous people and B) degrading them to spectacles, rather than just another married couple that happened to be eating lunch that day in an organic grocery store.
I’m not okay with worshipping rich and famous people.
Instead, I want to sincerely honor, both inwardly and outwardly, the people in the world who are great examples to us all. Not the people who have become millionaires by entertaining the world, but instead, the people who best demonstrate what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
As a dad, I want my son to see that it’s the non-famous people in our lives who are most important.
It’s the people who don’t simply entertain us, but the ones who also motivate us and challenge us to become better human beings. The ones who give us direction. The ones who love us unconditionally. The ones we can never truly impress or disappoint.
Sounds like right now I’m describing the way I feel about my son. I am, actually.
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am a proud Country music fan- though I’m ultimately a Dave Matthews Band/Guster/John Mayer/Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty kind of guy.
In the past few weeks, in the midst of leaving our lives behind in Nashville and entering uncertainty and a current status of “in between jobs” in Alabama, not having much to do but constantly search for jobs and take care of our baby, the lyrics to a Country song by Andy Griggs from 1999 keep coming to my mind: “I promise you now, you won’t ever be lonely.”
Though the song is obviously written from the perspective of a man in love with a woman, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her, the lyrics now speak to me in a different way:
“You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms and I’ll never let go. Baby, here’s where it starts and I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely. Here’s a shoulder you can cry on and a love you can rely on. For as long as I live
there will always be a place you belong.”
But while the words to this song obviously make perfect sense in the perspective of me speaking to my child, they actually are more relevant to me in this mindset: I won’t ever be lonely. Not just him. But I won’t ever be lonely.
I am better able to understand now why there are so many pregnant teenagers and why MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such a popular show- because so many kids today are lonely.
(I am under the crazy notion that a good number of pregnant teens and extremely young parents are not getting pregnant simply because of the careless lack of birth control, but instead because they subconsciously want to be have a baby in a attempt to be loved by someone.)
So many daughters have never been told by their fathers that they are beautiful. So many sons have never heard their father tell them “I’m proud of you”. Having a baby definitely changes the lonely factor in many ways. Even if the 19 year-old father who works for minimum wage at the oil change place bales on her soon after the baby is born- at least that young mother will always have someone depending on her.
Granted, I haven’t been lonely in a long time. But I can easily remember it. It can be painful; literally. Last week I watched a National Geographic documentary on solitary confinement where I learned that loneliness is processed in the same part of the brain as pain. I can easily remember being 20 years old, feeling lost, out of place, an unmatched. I wondered for the next five years if I would be like the actor who played Mr. Belvedere, who never married or had children his whole life. But at age 25, my wife and I met each other and those heavy and desperate thoughts of loneliness haven’t entered my mind in over four years.
Now at age 29, I am the opposite of lonely. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful and hilarious baby son that I will always matter to. And I have a feeling that the older our son Jack gets, the more attention and energy of mine that he will require. At least until he reaches 7th grade and gets too cool for me.
If you’re not good at winning staring contests, you should try being in one with an infant. It’s pretty easy to win because there are no “overawareness” issues. Baby Jack is dedicated to the game; I’ll give him that. But typically I win because he either smiles or sneezes. There’s nothing like staring at a baby’s face. It’s amazing how long you can do it before you realize you’ve been doing it that long.
Of all the funny faces he currently makes, my favorite one is when raises his eyebrows like wants to be part of the 1950’s Rat Pack. There’s also the “Elvis sneer”, the “surprised Dana Carvey”, the “Paul McCartney”, the “ancient Chinese man”, the “drowsy poet”, and the “Mac the alien” (a reference to a mostly forgotten E.T. copycat movie called Mac and Me.)
He often slips in and out of sleep when I stare at him. I try to imagine what he is dreaming about, as his face tells the seemingly same story every time. The dream starts out with Baby Jack petting a friendly puppy (Jack always starts his dreams smiling). Then a mean dog comes along and scares Jack and the friendly puppy (that’s when Jack has a worried look on his face). Lastly, the dream ends with him drinking milk or pooping (as he either starts “rooting” or grunting, accordingly). What else would a baby dream about anyway?
“I wanna wake you from your dream. I wanna know just who you’re talking to when you’re singing in your sleep. I wanna find out what it means. I’ve got marbles in my mouth. Thousand words I wanna say but it’s impossible to spit ‘em out.”