Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Idolatry and Perceptions

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.


When St John the Evangelist wrote those words in his epistle in the first century, he was probably thinking of the idols that people worshipped in temples, not the ones that people worship in Indoor Stadiums or in front of TV sets.

Quite strangely, I haven't the slightest urge to join in the idolatry. I don't care if Taufik or Sly wins. (In fact, judging from the screams from my neighbours' TV sets as I type this, the results must be out already.) Maybe it's because I haven't watched a single episode of Singapore Idol. But I've been reading about it in the papers, in blogs and online forums, and I've been hearing serious discussions about it among friends and others. Being immersed in such an environment of idolatry, and yet not quite in it, has put me in quite a unique position...

Looking at how fans gush at their idols, it makes me a little nervous. Frankly it makes no sense. These idols were just ordinary fellas not too many months ago. Then, if you saw them on the bus or along Orchard Road, you'd look right by them. If you heard them sing at a karaoke lounge, you may be quite impressed by their talent, but that's about it. But today, when they step into a room, you scream. When you see them along Orchard, you get excited and nervous. If they smile at you directly, you melt. Or faint. What happened? Did something change in your perception of them?

Perhaps the idols have undergone some changes too along the way?

As an idol, your confidence grows as you become more famous with more worshippers. You learn to smile and wink at people. It becomes less embarrassing to have perfect strangers coming up to you and asking you for your autograph, or even giving you a hug and a few kisses. You stop blushing when people scream as you step into a room. People think you're someone great, and they're right. Or so you think.

The beauty of all this is that it's really all make-believe. Whatever adoration we pour at the feet of our idols is based on ephemeral and feeble foundations. And yet countless fans have spent much time and effort in their idolatry.

Which is really not that much different from the idols in temples that St John was warning against.

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