Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Zimmerman Effect

A couple weekends ago I learned that there’s a graveyard within a hundred miles of here where the parents of Bob Dylan were laid to rest. I’d intended to shoot a photo to accompany my blog entry about the Zimmermann Telegram, the book by Barbara Tuchman that I wrote about based her research on how the U.S. got into World War One. Unfortunately, as I was writing about the book I realized the spelling was not the same, as you can see. So, hmmm. I slept on it.

The other night as I lay awake on my pillow, I found myself pondering how it is that places where celebrities have been, like our Duluth Armory where a young Bob Dylan saw Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper do their second to last concert, can become charged with such meaning. Places like the graveyard in Paris where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are purportedly disposed, or Woodstock because of the festival it hosted, perhaps against its will, have become shrines.

I also thought about the concept of six degrees of separation and how a tomb, in a sense, puts us in close proximity with a segment of history that has meaning to us in one way or another. Likewise art museums and history museums which let us stand at arm’s length from the bi-products of another's elevated life. By this I mean a life elevated in importance to a certain segment of society.

Examples abound. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The Louvre. The museum at the Indianapolis Speedway where you can stand next to every winning car of the Indy 500. The countless art museums in major cities throughout the world housing paintings by Picasso, images by Warhol and other iconic ghosts of art history.

For those who find the objects of our interests fascinating, our proximity to these people and places in some way effects us much like a magnet transforms a pin, when stroked, into a compass when floated on a film of water. Maybe this already has another name but if not, today I call this magnetizing The Zimmerman Effect.

I've sometimes been critical of the celebrity worship in our culture, but maybe it is something innate in us, in our essence, in the way we're wired, that desires to place people, places and objects on pedestals. There is a sense in which maybe we are even wronging them to do so because they are really just people, places and objects, not gods. It is interesting how our hearts are restless in the pursuit of something higher than ourselves.

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