Essays About

Public Figures Forfeit Private Lives

I instinctively envy celebrities with their adoring crowds until I remember how little I like to socialize, altering my route on walks to avoid passing long-winded neighbors. I would only have wanted to be a celebrity before cameras and television, when admirers knew your name but not your face, and you could pass among them incognito. Today's celebrities enjoy every luxury except solitude. Like fugitives, they cannot visit the grocery store without hiding in hats and sunglasses. Their fame grants them access to privileged places but bars them from common places. To know yourself seems impossible when everyone knows you. The true self is the unrehearsed self, but spontaneity hides from an audience. I pity presidents who must issue official responses immediately after tragedies, unable like laymen to have a private reaction. They cannot attend to how they feel on account of planning what they must say. Even on private retreats where the press are barred, the protagonists of future history books are seldom alone, for they violate their solitude with the thought of their posthumous biographers. In fixating on how their fans and critics see them, they evict themselves from the private residence of their soul, giving up inner knowledge for a stranger's view of the exterior.

Privacy is life's consolation prize for worldly insignificance. Whomever the public does not ignore, it enslaves. Fame is like a spice: a little flavors life, but a lot ruins it.