Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Concentrating on becoming, not on being

Our daughters, Sabine and Simone, were riveted to the television. As each starlet walked the red carpet on Oscar Night we were breathless, watching the beautiful gowns worn by the gorgeous women of Hollywood.

We sat waiting to learn the origins of their gowns.

Milla Jovovich wore an Elie Saab creation and Rooney Mara was dressed in Givenchy, while Octavia Spencer was in a design by Tadashi Shoji. How about Gwyneth Paltrow in that white Tom Ford dress, not to mention Jennifer Lopez in the slinky beaded Zuhair Murad?

The talk of the evening was Angelina Jolie's luscious red lips and that extended leg with her hand on her hip. It was enough to make your teeth sweat.

After this display of haughtiness, I said, “Enough!”

“Daddy, if you don't like it, go into the other room,” Simone said.

Help me out with this. Do you think we're too preoccupied with celebrity, and that we compare ourselves to the Hollywood stars?

Of course the Oscars are fun to watch and movies are works of art, but we've gone too far, giving these people a distinction that is beyond a grasp of who we could become.

Actors play the lives of real and imaginary heroes, people that they could never be. But we call them stars and become enablers to a self-perpetuating façade.

Success is often confused with fame and stardom.

The morning after the Academy Awards I was sitting at Starbucks, working on the great American novel. I heard two young girls discussing the evening's events.

“Stacy Keibler is so beautiful! It's unfair; I could never look like that,” one said.

Doesn't it seem that we're never good enough? One of the classic films, “On the Waterfront,” plays to our collective failed hopes.

Marlon Brando plays a fighter who lost his chance at the title because of bad advice he received from his older brother, Charlie. In a soliloquy to his brother, Brando chastises Charlie for not looking out for him. “You was my brother, Charlie. You should have looked out for me. I could have had class, I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

Those words strike a chord in those who sense that somehow, they've missed the boat. They epitomize the agony of the person who didn't quite make it, but who dreamed of what life could be.

Hollywood's portrayal of heroes reminds us of how far we have to go to be one. So maybe we can only hope to be a contender.

We all want to be somebody, but what is the measure of a person? Hollywood's success relies more on the end result than it does on doing what it takes to get there. Who would watch a movie about an ordinary person? No one dreams of being ordinary.

Maybe we should concentrate on becoming, rather than on being. When we do that, we focus on something that brings satisfaction, instead of celebrity.

Philosopher William James says, “The exclusive worship of … ‘Success' is our national disease.”

I bet happiness has nothing to do with fame or wealth — or, for that matter, success. It's following one's passion.

Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi tells us, “People are happiest when they are completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.”

So maybe being a hero, maybe being “somebody,” is irrelevant.

Enough said. Let's return to the red carpet. Didn't Penelope Cruz look stunning in that periwinkle blue gown by Armani? She was a mixture of old and contemporary Hollywood and looked hotter than a biscuit.

But frankly, Penelope is just like we are. We may travel different paths, but in the end we all exist, trying to contribute a verse to life. Maybe that's what makes us “somebody.”

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at

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