Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Restless hearts

Driving back from a wedding in the early hours of Sunday morning, it was interesting to hear Radio Five Live's Stephen Nolan discussing why so many phenomenally successful celebrities are so unhappy - Amy Winehouse's admittance into rehab and 'suicidal tendencies' just the latest incarnation.

It was amazing to hear the range of views expressed on why celebrities are unhappy. One panellist refused to believe that rich and successful celebrities were unhappy at all. He put Amy Winehouse's recent confessions down to wanting to promote herself, and the lyrics of those like Robbie Williams as merely wanting to seek attention. He was quite convinced that being rich and successful would definitely lead to happiness and refused to think otherwise. I have to say that Stephen Nolan seemed to think otherwise. In one of the most moving parts of the programme; despite admitting to earn twenty times the amount of some of the happiest people he knew, and despite having won more Sony awards for broadcasting than any other person, Nolan confessed to still not being happy, and far less happy than many of those around him.

Other panellists and those that phoned in gave other reasons for the unhappiness of so many successful celebrities. I guess that many of us will be familiar with the insatiability of wanting just a little bit more: one person, for example, put Robbie Williams' unhappiness and restlessness down to the fact that he'd yet to conquer America. No matter how famous a person is, there's always someone that little bit more successful or in vogue. Another person suggested that famous people are seeking to find their pleasures in the wrong places, in things and not people, which is no doubt at least partly true.

However, what stuck out for me in the discussion was the suggestion that, actually, it's the fear of the future that cripples many celebrities. No matter how successful they are now - and no matter how many 'trimmings' come with that success - there is no guarantee of success and acceptance in the future. Amy Winehouse is currently phenomenally popular and acclaimed, receiving awards right, left and centre. But what guarantee is there of her future? I guess Robbie Williams is perhaps a case in point: just a couple of years ago, easily the most popular solo artist in Britain. Now we're all beginning to think that his bubble has burst. And so perhaps it's realising that their lives - including their success - are so fragile, that successful celebrities are left crippled and paranoid.

The gospel of grace, of course, addresses this need. God's acceptance of us is not based upon our latest record or any performance of us at all. He loves us deeply as we are and through Jesus' sacrifice the guarantee of our relationship with him is made, regardless of what we do and how things turn in the future. God's grace - his unconditional acceptance of us - guarantees us a wonderful future of love in relationship with him and an unshakeable identity as his children. This, it seems, is what so many celebrities crave - but overlook in Jesus.

You can 'listen again' to Stephen Nolan's Saturday programme here.


Anonymous said...

I don't think there is one answer to why famous and successful artists not are happy.

Robbie Williams for example has always had his faith, and prayers been important for him. He for one knows that money and fame has nothing to do with happiness. If you have a great talent and become successful, but your self-esteem is low, your insecurities don't disappear. If you become very successful there is only one way after that, and they know that.

In Britain it seems like what a lot of people enjoy the most, is to see someone successful fail. It obviously makes people feel better about themselves - it's pure enviousness and spitefulness. Once you were hailed, now you're a loser. Robbie Williams again. The spitefulness and eagerness with which the british media (tabloids) has unjustly knocked him down in Britain this year - it's unbelievable shameful.

Famous artists are human beings with feelings, fears and insecurities just like us. But when they fall they fall really hard, accompanied by the scornfully laughing media and general public.

Marie, Sweden

peterdray said...

Hi Marie

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that, of course, celebrities are unhappy for different reasons - there's no one reason that applies to all of them. I also agree that the British media are particularly savage.

However, as a Christian, I would also say that as created beings, we can't be ultimately happy until we know the design of the Creator for us. God's design for humans is to know and love him. Without that relationship, we'll always be left thinking that there's something we're missing. I think that comes across clearly in some of his song lyrics.

Anonymous said...

I'm far happier now as an atheist than I ever was as a Christian and I certainly now don't feel there's anything missing in my life.

peterdray said...

Hi Anonymous,

Sorry to be late in responding - I've only just got back into the country.

I guess the approach that the Bible would ask is - what makes you happy and will it last? It's true that sometimes we can be happy outside of a relationship with God, but not in any lasting way. We were created for a relationship of love with God - without it, our lives will always still feel empty at times. It's great that you don't feel this at the moment - but maybe you will when the source of your happiness fails you.

I guess you'd also have to take it up with Jesus, who claimed that life indeed does start with a relationship with God made available through the reconciliation his death on the cross brings.