Anthony Bourdain: Rethinking People on Pedestals

I’ve always been a tomboy, so I don’t own a handbag. Anthony Bourdain was my Kate Spade. I join millions of people who feel sad and confused by his passing.

What’s been most surprising in the aftermath of his death, is listening to people talk about how they yearned to be him. Not just ordinary people like me who packed their suitcase every Sunday evening and jetted off to some far corner of the globe seeking adventure, worldliness, and perhaps some degree of escape. But famous, capable people who’s lives seemed Bourdainian already from their intellect, creativity, and status to the resources they could summon to curate any one of his experiences for themselves (complete with celebrity cameos).

I guess it’s true . . .

“You never really know someone’s insides from looking at their outsides.”

What’s Up with the Pedestal?

It got me thinking about our tendency to put other people and their lifestyles on a pedestal.

Maybe it’s simply a case of admiration laced with a touch of envy—or a Harry Met Sally scenario—“I’ll have what he’s having.” There’s certainly no harm in that. None of us can avoid the occasional feeling the grass looks greener on someone else’s side of the fence—or at least on their Instagram page.

But I suspect it goes deeper.

People we admire possess qualities we covet. In Bourdain’s case, we loved his brilliance, curiosity, creativity, rare talent, passion for life, humor, sense of adventure, good looks, swag, crustiness, empathy, honesty, writing talent, voice and even his suede Clarks boots.

He was like a human word cloud floating above our heads. We could see him and all we aspire to be through a kind of glass ceiling, but we couldn’t figure out how to break through and harness those attributes and adventures for ourselves.

He was always up there, and we were always down here.

The Irony of It All

I think he probably hated that. It’s why the whole pedestal thing doesn’t work—it’s not good for either party.

In fact, if you look at his deep body of work, you can see the majority of people he profiled and the places he chose to take us were actually quite ordinary. One of his colleagues said in tribute, “Tony could make Pittsburg sound good!”

As a self-proclaimed storyteller—–he knew how to sit down with the local shop owner, laborer, cook, taxi driver, or recovering drug addict and shine a light on their true brilliance. I bet if he pulled up a chair with any one of us over our favorite local fare and a cold beer he’d help us figure out what makes us interesting too.

Sure, his story and the stories he told about people all over the planet were pretty cool. But I think his purpose was to inspire us to get on with the business of writing our own.

His Wellness Legacy

Interestingly, the most trending Bourdain quote seemed to be the one beginning with, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to get out and move!”

Of course, I’d love to think he was talking about exercise, but . . . probably not.

His was a much bigger call to action:

My sister and I didn’t have to fly to Provence to find a lavender farm!

“Get moving! Move beyond your fear and self-limiting beliefs—–your ho-hum-ness and whimpering. Stop looking at MY life and those on your “friends” list. Your best life is much closer than you think, but it is up to you to get the cameras rolling and yell, ‘Action!'”

It makes for a beautiful wellness message because purpose, meaning, and connection in life are inspiring reasons for taking good care of ourselves (and there is science to back that one up!).

What Next?

Whether you are into carrying suitcases or handbags, there is a good chance the passing of Bourdain and Spade stirred up a confusing mish-mash of emotions about the fleeting nature of life.

We could wallow in that unsettledness and allow it to drag us down, or become emboldened to reach up into that cloud of enviable qualities and claim a couple of them for ourselves.

I’m sure the second option is the legacy both Spade and Bourdain would have wanted to leave behind.

We CAN do this!

I’d love to know  . . .

Suitcases or handbags . . . or is there someone else you admire? What qualities of theirs most inspire you and what are you going to do to MOVE your life and dreams forward today?

Feel good. Be well.


Wellness Prompt: That last question makes a wonderful wellness prompt for moving beyond self-limiting beliefs and harnessing the strengths and abilities you already have inside of you to reach your health, wellness, and life goals. Anchoring your choices in those words can often help you make healthier, life-affirming choices. What’s important to you? What does your best life look like and what are the actions steps you need to take to create that for yourself?

3 Comments on “Anthony Bourdain: Rethinking People on Pedestals

  1. Dear Meg!!!
    So beautifully stated and excellent insight!! Thank you for this. It made me think about the pedestal idea quite a lot. Even in our non celebrity lives there are those that magnetize and have some ‘it’ quality. It’s easy to think there is a disparity in brightness, but we all possess strengths, power and beauty that is unique and oftentimes easy to take for granted. ( makes me think a lot of nurses that care for ill people and have patience and courage to BE with that ill person through the darkness of disease) Those characteristics that are not seen by many but make all the difference to a few. We all have that brightness — it just comes out in different ways. Media can hype and color anything to be perfect. In the end we know nothing is. Big hugs!! Xoxo steph

    • Stephanie! So fun to read your comment. I felt we were back at the Ranch enjoying a conversation on wellness over a bad cup of Ranch coffee again! Those were the days, right? I so agree with your reflection–and I think it’s where I was coming from in trying to make sense of the outwardly focused life we lead these days. We all have richness and that “it” quality–but perhaps just need to pull the trigger on it more often and see how to use it within our circle of influence (your beautiful example of the nurse.) Thanks for reading and furthering the conversation. We need a Ranch reunion!
      Meg Root recently posted…Anthony Bourdain: Rethinking People on PedestalsMy Profile

      • Would LOVE a Ranch Reunion!! I loved what you wrote. It is timely and so vital to the state of our world now!!! Huge hugs dear Meg!!!!!

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