people often refer to themselves as fans of someone or something. part of being a fan is to be informed about the object in question, be it a person, a movement or what not, and (auto)biographies are popular methods of self-education. generally true admiration seems to require extensive knowledge of the subject.
i never liked (auto)biographies. many of them are poorly written and the writers motivation, be it praise or bashing, is often badly concealed. whether my object of fancy is a band, an artist or a thinker, i hardly ever wish to know anything beyond their work. it might be telling to explain that i usually do not recognize the singers of my favorite bands until i see them play live and, moreover, i find the personal lives of artists and authors uninteresting. therefore, it might be more accurate to say i am a fan of music, artworks or thought systems rather than the people who produce them.
in addition to lack of interest, my foremost reason for avoiding biographies is rather simple: i try to steer clear of the sort of psychological lure they inspire in people, including myself. although i can grasp the pleasure of "really understanding someone" after knowing their history and am just as prone as anyone to conduct analyses of random people over a hot cup of coffee, i knowingly try to avoid creating a sense of certainty over the motives and "true" rationales of other persons. as all biographies are already interpretations, the multiplication of internal logics are a sure method for creating incredible fables. and yet, somehow, people actually seem to think they know significantly more about a person after reading a biography. i find it somewhat self-delusional.
however, i do appreciate the potential personal narratives have for understanding human beings in general, and i do see how personal histories may explain certain actions or patterns. i just approach all non-fictional narratives very carefully and with suspicion because as often as we claim fiction ends, true fairytales seem to begin...
moreover, lately i have pondered how easily people are appalled by claims of admiring someone you disagree completely with. the small turmoil created by a finnish bb star when he stated he admired the sad, charismatic man who was responsible for the devastation we refer to as the second world war, made me realize that while people love creating categories by separation, they are hardly ever very subtle or original with them. if someone is deemed the evilest of all, then everything associated with him must be evil and, thus, not admirable. period. naturally, the bb star's blurt was dismissed as the brain fart of a simpleton, but it failed to conceal the fact that we find it hard to understand that veneration does not necessarily include agreement.
it may be that admiration strives predominantly from likemindedness; we revere people we wish we were like or consider kin. but there exist varieties of respect that require disassociation from the object and that reveal the fact that agreement is not in any way necessary for esteeming something or someone.
for example, i share with many of my friends the fascination for the slightly (or more) eccentric characters. as i watched grey gardens – the original documentary and the new hbo film – on new year's day, it was more than clear that my admiration for the beale women was detached from my own sense of self. in fact, the lunatic characters are incredible on many levels, but to think i share values or ideals with them is rather farfetched. admiration requires certain characteristics to develop from mere intrigue, but not an entirety of association. in regards to grey gardens, i admire their ability to sustain a sense of self-worth in the middle of chaotic circumstances.
after saying all of the above, i was surprised to find myself intrigued by a biography. described as probably the most wholesome of the many written so far, none other than a new biography of ayn rand created a desire to read about her background. familiar to me from my interest in women in philosophy, but better known as a fiction author, rand inspired ronald reagan among others and was the founder of objectivism, a realistic line of egoism in ethics, and, essentially, a true libertarian – although she would disagree. everything she taught and believed in i pretty much disagree with and think her objectivist credo is a bubble that already burst, but i find her compelling as a character with all the fanatic followers and discussion she still arouses and her sharp logic. thus, to say i admire her is not entirely wrong.
here she explains her political thought on television in 1959; part one.
part two and three of the interview.
since i can conduct analyses of myself without creating too much of logic buildup (although i may go haywire otherwise), i do suspect the reason behind my interest is trying to understand and, ultimately, explain away a belief system that contradicts my own so radically. i want to find trauma that could annihilate the reasoning behind rand's thinking – essentially an ad hominem against her – and, hence, seem to be lured into exactly what i have explicitly tried to avoid. therefore, it seems safer to continue debunking her theories with logic and leave her personal life alone.
since biographies are incredibly popular and if my worries are correct, there must be a vast amount of people out there who play the analyst on a regular basis. nevertheless, it is entirely possible – or even probable – that i am taking the common fascination way too seriously.
if you admire someone's work do you tend to find out as much as you can about them? if you are a fan of biographies, do you ever ponder the motives behind your interest? have you found your preconceptions strengthened or explained by biographies?