>nobility and celebrity


'The Judgement of Solomon', oil on canvas painting by Gaetano Gandolfi, mid 1770s
The Judgement of Solomon by Gaetano Gondolfi
(mid 1770’s) reminds us of the wisdom by which Solomon
achieved his noble status. The story is told in I Kings. It
reads like a plotline from Eastenders!

I didn’t know that “noble” literally means “known” – and so “nobility” is a community of persons who have become knowable because of the quality of their lives. Celebrity should similarly be the status of those whose lives are worth celebrating. Through the media (deserved?) we celebrate those who have achieved celebrity status through their ignobility – in spite of their lack of talent and human qualities.

Conversation with friends yesterday led us to reflect on Hitler who we saw as a good leader turned bad. A noble leader turned tyrannical monster. In that he is not alone. Michael Sadgrove, in considering the life of Solomon in Wisdom and Ministry, reflects on the processes and temptations for the noble of “grandiosity”. We know that nobility and grandiosity often go together. It is wisdom that keeps them apart.

Sadgrove writes: “The temptation is to stand as tall as we can so that we fill the institution we lead. Yet Jesus says that true greatness means becoming like a little child. This suggests that true ‘standing’ means not filling the space ourselves but making room for others.”

I shall reflect on how I have become known – how I may even be noble. I shall confess my ignoble sins of grandiosity. The ways of Hitler and Solomon lie open before us.

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