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« Truth’s Accomplice | Main | They who must not be named »

June 28, 2007

Re: Celebrity

Gina, you ask,

Supposing that God Himself would ever deign to look at Hayden Panettiere, what would He see? Just another blond, indistinguishable actress? A product? Or something more?

Obviously, He would see a great deal more. Since, to state the obvious, I'm not God all I get to see is what Ms. Panettiere and what I call the "entertainment stupidity complex" (ESC) allow me to see. And this definitely qualifies as one of those things that should be scraped, never mind rationed, from our lives.

This is neither "preening" nor a claim to "gravitas" -- it's a recognition that not all information is created equal. If the choice is between labeling something or someone "vapid," not worthy of my attention, and coming off as smirking and superior or refusing to call the vapid "vapid" for fear of being taken for a snob, I choose the former.

Now, if Ms. Panettiere or any other celebrity were in need and I was in position to help them, then I would, hopefully, treat them as I would my friends and family. But that's the point: the chances of that happening are as close to zero as anything gets. Thus, paying attention to their lives serves no purpose other than to satisfy what St. Augustine called curiositas, a disordered desire for novelty and knowledge that is the opposite of studiousness.

As usual, St. Thomas Aquinas has the definitive word on the subject. Writing about curiosity in the Summa, he says:

One may watch other people's actions or inquire into them, with a good intent, either for one's own good--that is in order to be encouraged to better deeds by the deeds of our neighbor--or for our neighbor's good--that is in order to correct him, if he do anything wrong, according to the rule of charity and the duty of one's position. This is praiseworthy, according to Heb. 10:24, "Consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works." But to observe our neighbor's faults with the intention of looking down upon them, or of detracting them, or even with no further purpose than that of disturbing them, is sinful: hence it is written (Proverbs 24:15), "Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest."

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