No Holds Barred: The Need to Heal

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Isaac and Rebecca Spied upon by Abimelech (fresco circa 1518–1519 by Raphael in the loggia on the second floor of the Palazzí Pontificí in Vatican City).

What a week. On Friday the 13th we had Hamas’ “day of rage” followed by Saturday’s “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse. I preferred to watch the latter. Luckily, I didn’t have to burn out my retina as the moon obstructed the sun. You could just see and feel a spooky darkening at 9:30 in the morning as early morning became twilight. Most eclipses portend giant shifts of some kind. As some astrologers say, “eclipses are neither good nor bad — they are simply a shortcut to tomorrow.”

2023 Ring of Fire Eclipse. Credit: @astrofalls

But this eclipse involved Libra, which is all about balance and partnership; and its opposition Aries, which represents singular freewheeling self-direction. The sense is we need both to heal. We are to create a bridge of some kind, or the cultural demise will continue. Remember what Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes us all blind.” I like what New York Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristof recently wrote; “If your moral compass is attuned to the suffering of only one side, your compass is broken and so is your humanity.” He was referring to the slippery slope of the current Hamas/Israel war.

Well … if we don’t get the message of the last eclipse we have another coming April 8th, 2024, and that promises no “Ring of Fire.” But who knows.

Last week’s Middle East explosion made many aware of our collective “addiction to intensity.” Whether it’s the constant breaking news with the same nightly visuals of streaking missiles, crashing bombs and smokey landscapes or the media’s doomy soundtracks and threatening red lettered chyron headlines.

We are once again at a level of total saturation and high anxiety. It reminded me of the early days of the pandemic updates. Those daily White House briefings that made stars out of Trump‘s Covid task force — Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Robert Redfield. We held on to their every word … and every gulp of Clorox. As the news changed, so did our concentration. However, our obsession with volume and intensity remained high.

Then last year it was all about Ukraine. For three months our building lights were lit in blue and yellow — we wore pins of solidarity. Volodymyr Zelensky became a celebrity as we learned how to pronounce his name. His olive drab T-shirt and cargo pants made fashion headlines. World leaders and Hollywood stars flew to Ukraine to do a meet and greet “photo op” with Zelensky. David Letterman, Orlando Bloom, Jessica Chastain, Bono, Angelina Jolie, Ben Stiller and of course Sean Penn made this trek. And then what? I expected Zelensky to at least host Saturday Night Live. Even the constant rumors of Putin trembling from Parkinson’s or dying from cancer became old news. The Bore of War started to weigh in. Remember, the public is fickle —  with the attention span of a flea. Time moves on.

But then Israel/Hamas arrived with a higher flame. Buildings were immediately lit in blue and white and that awful, heightened sense of fear and helplessness returned.

Nowadays with social media igniting any issue, I don’t think the addiction is about intensity. It’s all about Attention. As Andy Warhol predicted, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Now with TikTok and Instagram, it is 15 seconds. And war is the ultimate flag to stand under for individuals who are craving attention. Nobody really watches news on TV; we have the power of “influencers” on our phones. Our digital world is ruled by the popularity of “eyeballs” and “clicks.”

It is amazing how many people thought the images of the Hamas atrocities were “fake news.” Most influencers don’t have the experience to convey anything past closet displays of their shoe collections, their coffee brand and the parties they attended. And yet many are now verbalizing their political POV’s with self-righteous personal rage, it makes you wonder about freedom of speech. Remember — attention rules. At all costs.

I now have to hand it to the Kardashian family who were masters at being attention seekers and made it into an art form. I wonder if Kim is still studying law. Remember that announcement when she visited Trump at the White House for prison reform? But the Kardashians are really known for their lips, tit and ass inflation. They gave birth to that body transformation trend and single-handedly originated reality TV (although we can’t forget OG Sally Jessy Raphael). Even World News can’t compete with the Kardashians.

Last week I decided to look for any kind of escape from the Israeli/Hamas coverage. I was trying to find an alternative to the high intensity attention issue. But even former President George Bush warned that the public will eventually feel that this war has gone on for too long. They will sense that there is a way to settle this through negotiations but, “negotiating with killers is not an option.”

OK. So, is the war antidote of “going shopping” a valid chill pill? Remember it was Bush who insisted after the attack of 9/11 that we should get our lives back and go shopping. “Get down to Disney World in Florida. “Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” I guess post-terrorist spending was the way to bring recovery to the economy back then. But nowadays Disney World and retail have yanked their prices sky high. So that would not play today.

I worry that our need for diversion will get us stuck in more “Travis and Taylor” romance reports. “Taylor Nation” seems to be our only hope. God help us. Imagine, that I have never seen or heard Taylor Swift sing, and yet I know way too much about her life; her saving the NFL season, her friendship bracelets and her blockbuster movie. Last summer I actually skipped the pink explosion of “Barbie” and yet I feel like I’ve seen it 10 times already. Cultural saturation can do that. There is no FOMO anymore. You will see it all whether you like it or not. There are no escape valves.

Which brings us to Madonna’s “return” tour. Some call it her “life and death” tour. Five months ago, she almost died from a respiratory infection and has now trained her 65-year-old body to become “the Queen of Pop” once again. But don’t count Madge out (even though the London reviews were iffy) with shaky ticket sales. She is coming to Brooklyn in December to “show Taylor and Beyoncé and Gaga how it’s done.”

Will she win the attention-addiction sweepstakes? After all, her audience is older and at this age will they really come dressed in fingerless gloves, cone bras, fishnet stockings, bustier corsets, whips and S&M leathers? I think not. She is sporting a quadricep brace in most dance numbers — maybe that could be part of her merch?

The questions arise, will her plastic surgery hold up under those bright lights? Will her voice make it through the lip syncing? Will she have to sit, not strut her songs? Will her daughters pick up her dance slack on stage? Remember how Marlene Dietrich tried to make a comeback at 72 and ended up literally falling off the stage in her final curtain call. I am sure with Madonna’s bullet proof ego that she will make the world know … that with her …

Attention Must Be Paid!

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