Simon Parke: The lesson of waves

18 November 2009

ON THE diamond stairway to fame, enjoy the climb, but be kind to your personal assistant. Positions can change. I was in a radio studio recently to appear on a show that had had “pre­vious guests such as Gloria Hunni­ford, Lesley Garrett, Peter Andre, Louise Redknapp, Lisa Riley, Julie Goodyear, Abi Titmuss, Nikki Grahame, Jeremy Kyle, Jimmy Os­mond, Mica Paris, Clive James, and Jan Ravens”.

After playing “How many of those have I heard of?” — and scoring a creditable ten out of 13 — I reflected that my name would never be on the publicity, because I simply was not famous enough. I could be their best-ever guest; but I could not join the list because celebrity trumps quality every time.

As if to confirm this, a full-blown celebrity plonked himself down opposite me with a PA provided by his publishers. He would certainly be on their list, but he turned out to be rather boorish. Without a “Thank you”, he greedily devoured the lunch his PA had brought him from M&S; and complained about various inter­viewers, queried his afternoon schedule, and talked tediously about dull past achievements.

The PA was incredibly gracious, and managed to look interested in his conversation. She was like a mat­tress to his body; whatever position he assumed, she became the right shape to hold him. Sometimes she would reveal a little about herself, but the celebrity never picked up on it. He had himself to talk about, and his needs to be considered. It is this tragic sense of entitlement that pre­sumably led some MPs to gorge on their expenses.

And then I began thinking about waves, which are not like that at all. As waves rise up, they will be aware — if they are honest with themselves — that they can rise only if other waves fall. For them to be big, others will need to be small; and vice versa. So no wave is large in itself, but it relies on a relationship with others, in which it must be diminished. It is rather humbling, but also rather jolly.

As Buddha said: “This is like this, because that is like that.” There are no celebrity waves, because a big wave is an entirely communal achi­eve­ment. And then, with minutes to go until I was on air, a remarkable thing happened: I found myself feel­ing sorry for the celebrity, as glow-worms came to mind.

“You know the glow-worms in Brazil that shine,” Thomas Carlyle said, “so that in the evening the ladies stick them into their hair with pins; well, fame is a fine thing, but look you, to the artist it is what the hairpin is to the insects.”

Compassion broke out within me for this celebrity, so skewered by his gift. He left without a farewell to his PA, but then, this is what imagined status does. It makes you mad; and the only known cure is get down to the sea and watch the waves.

Job of the Week


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