Why we have idols


When I started following Seth Godin’s blog in 2009, I wanted to connect with him personally. Something in what he was saying made me to want to tell him that. But I didn’t, because making a connection with him drew light on who I was by comparison, and made me feel small. I realized I wasn’t doing much with my life, and Seth would point that out (in a nice, encouraging way).

When I saw Calvin Johnson walk into a bar on Capitol Hill 15 years ago, I knew I had to introduce myself. He was one of my favorite indie artists, right there, in a bar!

I sat beside him and shook his hand, and said how fond I was of his music. It was intensely awkward for both of us. What do you with that, other than say thanks?

Idols can have great power over us. My mom has a friend who’s obsessed with Englebert Humperdinck, which has made us concerned at times for her mental well-being. Admiration can quickly go to the dark side.

I think idols represent someone or something we wish we could be. We see something in them that strikes a chord, but there’s a distance between them and us. Is it just because they’re on stage and we’re in the audience?

Rather than ask for an autograph, I’d rather do what it is they’re doing and earn their respect as an equal. The alternative is to sit back and watch.


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5 replies

  1. There’s a difference between an idol and someone you admire. An idol is untouchable, unattainable even. Someone you admire is just that, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling someone (not crazily) that you admire their work. I’m sure they appreciate it. I think you can admire and aspire without just sitting back. Autographs, though, I just don’t get.


  2. The term idol can be used loosely. I remember once calling a nurse I know an idol to me but it would have been better to have said mentor .


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