The passing of Queen Elizabeth II has been mourned by millions of people, many feeling the same grief as if a close family member had died. Even anti-Royalists would have to concede that the Queen triggers something deep in the collective consciousness.
The death of a famous person sends a stark reminder of our own mortality. A collective outpouring of grief on a global level has a cathartic, healing effect. We are reminded over the loss of our own loved ones who are no more. The queen herself said in a message after the 9/11 terror attacks on September 11, 2001: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
The public image of the rich, powerful and famous is carefully crafted by teams of professional public relations experts and seldom bears resemblance to the real lives of the persons portrayed.
Individual needs, hopes, dreams, and aspirations are projected onto persons in the public limelight. It is part of the marketing strategy to remain a talking point, with tidbits of information on the private lives being fed to the yellow press at timed intervals.
The projection of hopes and dreams
The result is that the addictive consumer of gossip press knows more about some distant movie star or royal family member than about their immediate family or friends. Sadly, they become so engrossed with the life of a complete stranger that they forget to live their own life.
There seems to be almost a masochistic indulgence in the rise and fall of some famous rock legend, movie, or sports star. Nothing seems to provide the yellow press with so much “Schadenfreude” as to elevate a superstar to a “God” and then to do everything possible to oust them from the throne.
There are indeed rare historical examples of leaders who never set a foot wrong and through their life of service become a game-changer for generations afterward. Queen Elizabeth’s vow to serve was made in a famous speech in Cape Town on her 21st birthday.
Nelson Mandela committed his life to the struggle for a non-racial democratic South Africa. Just prior to being sentenced to life imprisonment by the apartheid government in 1961, he said:
“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, working tirelessly in the background of her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, campaigned for the rights of women in the workplace and the civil rights of African Americans.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give,” she said in one of her most famous quotes.
Spiritual leaders made the ultimate sacrifice
Many of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders gave the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus was crucified on the cross. During the Middle Ages the Mystics and religious leaders Giordano Bruno, Jan Hus, Joan of Arc, and Marguerite Porete were burned at the stake for heresy like tens of thousands of others.
In an age where personal material gratification and narcissism have become the norm, a “life dedicated to service” has become an almost archaic term from bygone times.
It is no coincidence that a culture of narcissism is interlinked to the epidemic rise in depression. Disappointment, grievance, and loss of self-esteem are inevitable when the drumbeat of the cultural message is all external. Meaning and value are defined according to “fame parameters” such as the number of social media followers, material possessions, and particular definitions of physical beauty.
An antidote to depression?
A life of service is one of the best antidotes to depression. Studies reveal that people doing volunteer work in their community and who have a life philosophy based on serving something that far outweighes their individual needs are more successful, happier, and contented human beings.
It is why some of the world’s wealthiest people have become the world’s greatest philanthropists, using their wealth as their tool of destiny for the betterment of society.
Analysis of three waves of data from the Americans’ Changing Lives data set (1986, 1989, 1994) reveals that volunteering lower depression levels, especially for those over the age of 65. An Irish study concluded that volunteer work and as a result social connectedness improved mental health. Helping others gives a sense of meaning and purpose.
Even the Royal Family has been skillful in crafting its public image to counter growing sentiment questioning the meaning of having a monarchy. Yet, it is obvious that like Lady Diana, the Queen has touched the hearts of millions of people with small, simple gestures of kindness and compassion.
The simple things and their compound effect ultimately make all the difference in building a better world, something the Queen had obviously understood and is the message that has resounded with so many during these past days.
In a Christmas broadcast in 2002 the Queen said: “Our modern world places such heavy demands on our time and attention that the need to remember our responsibilities to others is greater than ever.”
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker
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