World Peace?

February 15, 2012

I may certainly be wrong on this but I have an inkling that future humans may look back at the Superbowl half-time show of 2012 and mark it as the great turning point—the moment when the Titanic of inflamed and de-famed Western civilization collectively, tragic-comically, hit an unremarked iceberg of rising introversion and authenticity.

In case you missed the passion play, Madonna, appropriator of kitsch, arrives upon the scene pulled by Gleeful “warriors,” football’s gay subtext writ large with jazz hands.  Before we know it the motif morphs to gospel choir and by the time the half-baked soufflé falls we are informed as to what this has all been about by way of a clear message:  World Peace.

I felt like crying as I watched this Vegas-gone-Greek fiasco, imagining Don Cornelius already on the last soul-train out of Dodge, but I couldn’t at first put my finger on why.  I wish no ill to Madonna, other than as signifier of fame-at-all costs narcissism which has a nasty trickle down effect upon things like traffic and taking turns, but then I started to have this strange image in my mind:  Madonna, artistically “dead,” and draped over Eli Manning’s victory lap in an inverse profane reversal of the Pieta.

Madonna solves the Madonna-Whore complex the way black culture appropriates the “N-word.”  She has played the national harlot with a heart of gold like an aging stripper with ever-dimmer ideas rather than softer lights and wafting veils.  At her tragic demise she danced like a virgin in process of being sacrificed in the Rites of Spring, like a wildebeest being brought down by lions, staggering on heels that even Elton John could no better pull off while hawking Pepsi.

So terribly sad.

Our fame-whore mother ready for her close-up.

But perhaps the fake must die in order for the authentic to be born; perhaps the loud must die, however loudly, in order for the quiet to rise; perhaps the dwindling dinosaur cannot fathom the mammalian meaning of the mouse.

I blog here neither to bury Madonna nor to praise her, but to whisper to the few who happen across these words:  OMG, the beast has fallen and groans its last.  It’s no wicked witch who’s dead but the whole shit show that creaks and groans as it falls like Poe’s House of Usher.

Don’t take it from me, but ask your own heart and mind:  have we had enough of megaphone bombast?  Can the screen go dark for a minute and we yet survive?  Does a light rise up in the eyes of those we actually know and love?  Can we witness this and know that it is good and real and nourishing without it being a social media event, a campaign, an IPO or a Broadway show?  Can we hang out with each other without measuring our success?

Alas Madonna, we knew her well.  Ask not for whom this mother passes toward the death of fading fame, for this immaculately inflated virgin dies for us and for our sins of ceaseless expansion and inane American Idolatry.

This half-time, evening in America, debacle of excess may prove a perfect tribute to Madonna’s persona-death—a wake for those who are not yet awake, a wheelbarrow race to nowhere bringing dead meat to unwell zombies.

No one watches Harry Potter and thinks, “Shit, I’m a muggle.”  And yet the zombies of mass pop lunacy won’t die until their food supply dwindles.

I am perfectly clear that what I say here has no big impact, and we are just talking amongst friends, much as Kafka read his work to his friends from his sick-bed and they all laughed and laughed—for comedy was the point, not black turtlenecks and unfiltered cigarettes.

There is a party happening, a quiet all-invited if you know where to go sort of affair.  But then you already know where it is, and you already know what time it is, and so we raise a glass to each other and to the introverted and the compassionate and the time we have together and it is good.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese February 15, 2012 at 8:13 am

I watched that halftime show, half laughing, half feeling like I was missing something. Then when “world peace” filled the field, I was really confused. I am puzzled by Madonna’s auto-tuned clinging to our culture of fame and saddened by the passing of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, tragic symbols of actual talent being subsumed by chemical and metaphorical demons.

But then I hear Adele sing and I think maybe we’re going to be okay after all.


Bruce February 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

While I wrote this post before Whitney Houston’s death, your words and sentiments seem to leap from some common well of feeling as my own, right down to Adele whose voice seemed to put its soulful arms around me as I drove away from my childhood home for the last time in these times of transition and transformation… perhaps toward authenticity and love in some softly widening way. XO


BigLittleWolf February 15, 2012 at 11:14 am

I did not watch the Superbowl. I do not watch glee. I do watch other shameful showings of our collapsing (outward?) culture, and find reinflating my own lungs with oxygen enough to survive increasingly difficult.

But there is nowhere to run, is there.

A witty, lyrical, and woeful bit of reality here, Bruce.


Bruce February 15, 2012 at 11:53 am

At least we can cry together and perhaps heal, or at least slowly and collectively grow past this tragic and painful phase. Here’s to hanging in, and out, together.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri February 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

I watched Madonna’s half-time show and also wondered what it is she was trying to say with “World Peace” at the very end. It was, as Kristen describes, confusing, especially when MIA decided to raise her middle finger to the crowd.
But somehow, I’ve always believed, that most of Hollywood and that world, operates in an alternative reality, one that a person like me isn’t really going to get or has no desire to understand.


Bruce February 15, 2012 at 11:58 am

This is so true, Rudri—you don’t even want to know. It’s when enough truly don’t want to know that we’ll see things get better, like gently ignoring any sort of awful childlike behavior and understanding the wounded broken narcissism underneath it. None of us are immune to this hurt, but our culture “heroes” act it out for us on our build-them-up/tear-them-down world stage—a realm in which it truly is not good to be the King, Queen or Madonna.

Here’s to compassion and authenticity—may they heal as well in the town square as they do in our kitchens with our children. Until then, it’s nice to see you around the virtual world :)


jenn February 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I also didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but mostly I was worried she was going to break an ankle, she could barely move in those boots.


Bruce February 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I know… and that’s why I feel like she’s a bit of a symbol of our culture, teetering on the brink of destruction, crying out for compassion, needing to somehow become authentic instead of famous-at-all-costs.


Wolf Pascoe February 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm

We didn’t watch. I actually worried that we owed it to our son to introduce him to our national pastime. Maybe next year, if Adele sings.


Bruce February 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

I thought Money Ball was our national pastime and the Superbowl our national half-time—but either way maybe it is high time Adele’s hauntingly loving voice grounds and orients us into a time of love no matter what has come before.


TheKitchenWitch February 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

She made me depressed. And after that performance, I kind of felt like that “World Peace” thingy was a middle finger to us all–we fools who tuned in.


Bruce February 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hard to know if it is contempt, delusion or terror that fuels nutty behavior, but if enough of us are starting to feel a similar way then our collective depression at such misguided nonsense just might herald a shift away from the previously reigning time of too-cool-for-school-cruel.


rebecca @ altared spaces February 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

I didn’t watch. Love the discussion here, though.


Lionsdenn May 22, 2016 at 2:57 am

I am in love with how you write. It’s very rare you fall in love with online text, but every now and then sifting through the garbage it pops up. And alas, here you are… so I must check out the rest of your corner in this virtual world.


Bruce May 24, 2016 at 8:17 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words—which are especially appreciated four and a half years after I wrote them. Here’s to quiet irony and authentic gratitude in loud times that show no sign quieting any time soon.


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