Last night, Twitter was buzzing with the news of Kim Kardashian’s big “reveal” in the long-running feud between her husband, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift: video evidence that West did talk to Swift before recording a song in which he suggests — while using the b-word that rhymes with rich — that he made Swift famous, back in 2009, when he interrupted her thank-you speech at an awards show in order to opine that he thought Beyonce should have won it.
Long story short — between using her reality show to create hype and buzz for the eventual “reveal” on Twitter, Kardashian has displayed that she is more than just a woman who likes to put nude pictures of herself online: she is as something of a multi-platform-managing Lady MacBeth, assisting her husband not in regicide but in the take-down of a in image-obsessive pop queen. Whether she will eventually mutter “out, out damned Swifties” is anyone’s guess.
You can read about it here, if you want to.
Why does this matter? It doesn’t, really. In the grand scheme of things, this ridiculous feud between extremely wealthy people “going nuclear” means nothing at all.
In a world full of turmoil, though, it makes us wonder how many people have stopped in the middle of reading about coups, and murdered cops and terrorist slaughter, in order to read and tweet about Kardashian, and West, and Swift (all of whom have worked the “feud” narrative for personal profit and attention for years) as though their story has equal weight and import to these serious events.
Then again, the world has always needed its distractions from the difficult realities, so there is nothing new here. During World War II, stories of Betty Grable’s legs being insured by Lloyds of London served a similar purpose — as bombs dropped and people were marched into ovens, those legs and that insurance policy were what the folks back home were talking about. When the news is unrelentingly grim, focusing on trivial nonsense seems like a respite.
Still, watching the response and attention given to this in-reality-non-story, not only by fans, but by the press, makes one wonder at the power of “glitz and glamour” to pull our attention and hold it as though we are magpies distracted by shiny things.
“Worldly” stories have always been used by the prince of the world in order to divert hearts and minds away from what is real and pressing. Misdirection is the key to all trickery. That’s worth remembering.
So’s this: “There is never a time when new distraction will not show up; we sow them, so several will grow from the same seed.” ― Seneca
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to indulge in reading about the ultimately pointless foibles of people whose lives are so distant and strange — and who excel in media manipulation for their own gain — but it’s probably not good to overdo, either. It wasn’t the way of the saints, that’s for sure. They kept their eyes on Christ Jesus, the Constant Reality — no misdirection, no shiny things pulling them away from whatever the task they had undertaken for his sake.
Just saying. Next time we feel our attention being pulled, and we’ve gone with it and had our respite, or distraction, that’s also a good time to take a look around at what’s going on in the real world, and see where we can help, either through prayer or other action.
All of this came to mind because of Psalm 73, accompanying today’s Office of Readings, which seemed to speak of just such illusions and our own perceptions of them:
For them there are no pains;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
5 They do not share in men’s sorrows;
they are not stricken like others.
6 So they wear their pride like a necklace,
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 Their hearts overflow with malice,
their minds seethe with plots.
Then again, we also read today, via Ignatius of Antioch:
Follow the ways of God, and have respect for one another; let no one judge his neighbor as the world does, but love one another always in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing among you that could divide you, but live in accord with the bishop and those who are over you as a sign and a pattern of eternal life.
The Divine Office is instructive, as ever.