I've been watching, with some odd mixture of fascination, horror and amusement, the media coverage of Tom Cruise, one of the better-liked actors of our generation, who's rarely made much of a misstep in his career, well at least until the last couple of years. We all used to like the boyish, handsome little fella because he was charming, because we knew of his dyslexia and because of his storybook romance with the lovely Aussie, Nicole Kidman. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, Tom goes nuts, divorces Nicole and eventually gets engaged to little Katie Holmes. He's figuratively opened a hole in his brain and is letting everything hang out on various TV shows, telling us how much HE knows and how little the rest of US know about various topics ranging from post-partum depression, chemical imbalances of the mind and aliens in outer space. In short, we're seeing a real-life version of the movie "Being John Malkovich", in which someone figures out how to enter some weird portal into the brain of the real actor, John Malkovich, and lives his life through his eyes, only this time we're being force-fed Tom's rather bizarre views, tinged as they are by Scientology and the corrupting influence of being a celebrity in the United States.
What makes someone like Cruise babble away on national TV about things he so obviously knows absolutely NOTHING about? Did he forget that he's dyslexic? Maybe he's seeing everything in a mixed-up manner and thinks that everyone else is seeing it in that way as well? I'd say, who knows and who cares, but obviously someone cares or at least our national media THINKS we care, enough to run Tom twenty-four hours a day and put him on front covers as he slobbers all over Katie, his apparent beloved (I don't know about you, but I'm a little creeped out by the fact that Katie has spoken about how she had a poster of Tom in her bedroom when she was in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! That this doesn't seem to bother the significantly older Tom is exceedingly troubling to me, if for nothing else than to know that the sweet-little thang he's going to marry had a crush on him when she was still learning to read and write.).
What makes guys like ME write in blogs, babbling about thoughts we have that'll never make the nightly news or the front page of the newspaper? Most of this stuff I write about would probably bore the tears out of a bartender in a corner dive during an evening bender, but I can get away with it to some degree in a blog because you, dear reader, can take it or leave it. I'm not the subject of national obsessions and therefore forced on you during every waking hour. Maybe Tom and I do have something in common; the desire to be known somehow for who we really are.
The big problem with letting people know who we really are, what we really think, is that, most of the time, what we are and think is probably incredibly boring to others, who are also want to believe that what THEY are and what THEY think should be known by others. Shelby Foote, one of my heros, who wrote a three-volume history of the Civil War (and who, sadly, died this week at 88), hated going to parties and once said that, "Truth be known, most people are incredible bores.". I know that's rather cynical, but it is true once you realize that the people who are truly fascinating, who really are interesting, are the people who aren't trying to be known, but who are trying to get to know YOU. They are the ones who are giving of themselves, who try to support you and try to find out how to satisfy your needs somehow, the givers, the sacrificers. That's the ultimate contradiction in life; in trying to be known, we can bore the hell out of everyone else, but in getting to know others, we can become absolutely fascinating.
Think about the people who have our interest most of the time; they aren't the ones seeking publicity, they are the ones who shun it. Greta Garbo, who famously said in a movie that she just wanted to be left alone, did just that for decades and probably became more famous for that than any of her movie roles. The portrait of Mona Lisa, with that wry smile, intrigues us because we don't know what's going on in her thoughts, but we'd love to know and never will. That's the secret, folks; keep some mystery about yourself and people will flock to you. Babble on and on about yourself and everyone will get bored awfully quickly and, even if you discover the cure for cancer or the common cold, eventually everyone will take a hike to someone with a bit more enigma about themselves. I can't just watch Tom Cruise in a movie anymore and enjoy his performance for what it is; now I see all his thoughts, misshapen and wacky as they may be, behind those lady-killer eyes and realize that I really, really don't want to know much about him anymore.
The moral of the story, dear reader? Shut up and look for the mysteries; they'll find you soon enough.