Beyond Brushstrokes

Goldfish and tropical fish are like humans in the limelight. Life in an aquarium or a glass house is a constantly moving spectacle.

Exhibitionists love an audience.

To simplify, let’s observe the intricate swirling patterns of fish. Their movements are choreographed to show off to maximum advantage the shimmering scales, luminous colors and translucent tails. Their vain counterparts strut and flaunt their flashy finery to impress the viewer.

Life is a stage.

And we are all players and actors who move according to a script and choreographed by a director. Occasionally, some are out of synch and out of tune.

Politicians and showbiz celebrities share the traits of the goldfish in the sense that they are always on view. They work and live in glass encasements under the glare of public scrutiny. Their actions (usually negative) are exposed, recorded, magnified (exaggerated), reported in great detail for public consumption.

It comes with the turf, they say.

Sudden fame can be a heady, blinding experience. From obscurity, an individual is thrust into the spotlight. From a slow lane to the fast track, he has to keep a steady accelerating pace. Or stumble and drop out.

Fame is a two-edged sword. The price is high. The loss of privacy and relative anonymity.

Favor seekers queue at one’s doorstep. At social functions and restaurants, sycophants gush and fawn.

In the rarefied air of the stratosphere the newly minted personality suffers spatial disorientation. He loses his perspective and sense of equanimity. He begins to believe the hype about himself. Soon, he starts to demand royal treatment.

He aspires to live the lifestyle of the rich, powerful and famous. To the point of wanting it to last forever.

The audience does not distinguish between the private individual from the public persona. As far as society, the constituents and fans are concerned, the big shot is public property.

Gone is the protective shield of one’s family and personal affairs. He becomes easy target for envy and intrigue. He is fair game for media, opportunistic predators and social climbing acquaintances. His life becomes an open book with added embellished features.

There are few perks for fame (or notoriety). One’s face (usually with unflattering angles) appears in the newspapers or on television and social media. One’s voice becomes familiar on the airwaves. Stories (fact and fiction) are printed and circulated in the internet and lost in cyberspace. Vicious rumors are packaged for titillation.

A sensitive soul catapulted into an open arena recoils from the heat and seeks refuge in a protective cocoon. In contrast, the tough, pragmatic individual takes everything (good and bad) with a grain of salt. He seeks attention, enjoys controversy and basks in the spotlight and publicity.

The supreme egoist echoes the line of a famous actor, “I don’t care what they say about me. Just spell my name right.”

Fame is fleeting and glory is transient.

Time has a way of exposing pretenders. Under high pressure, the bubble will burst for pseudo-luminaries and their illusions of grandeur.

In a glass showcase, it is not difficult to spot the difference between gold and brass. The genuine will always outshine the fake.

In the survival scale, talented individuals with substance will be recognized. Despite the hazards, the intelligent, persevering and determined hard worker would still prevail. Long-term, consistent exposure enhances experience for enduring quality performance.

A career in showbiz or politics is a high-profile, high-energy high-risk 24-hour extravaganza on an all-weather stadium — recorded for posterity.

Fish have a comparatively easy life vis-à-vis their human counterparts. They produce visual entertainment by making waves, blowing bubbles or jumping rings and tossing balls. In the aquatic realm, the colorful performance halts as soon as the bright lights dim.

In real life, the show ends temporarily only when the performer falls and fades.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.