Aleister Crowley, the infamous Victorian occultist and all round bad boy, once beloved of the Beatles, believed that everybody had potential to develop to their ultimate fulfillment. Later, in the Sixties as The Beatles were putting Uncle Aleister on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s, Abraham Maslow described a similar process as self-actualisation. Crowley summed up the idea by saying that, “Every man and every woman is a star.”
Some decades ago, while working with a guy who knew how to reward people with a simple but effective thank-you, I became used to him saying, “Well done,” in response to any achievement or effort on his behalf. I was struck by this noticeable kindness, which sort of says more about our society than it does about him.
At some point the two concepts fused, perhaps in an attempt to emulate my former colleague without wishing to use his specific phrase. So I found myself thanking people by saying, “You’re a star!” For ten or fifteen years I’ve been saying it to anybody who has helped me out, gone the extra mile, given me a good deal or simply done their job well on my behalf. I was a little self-conscious to use this specific phrase at first, but as the years passed it’s tripped off my tongue with relaxed ease.
I don’t remember hearing it before, and I think I chose the phrase because it seemed to be original. I remember, at the time, I thought the common understanding of someone being a star was as the old-fashioned concept that predated modern celebrity.
I’m sure other people have always had their own pet phrases of gratitude but I deliberately tried to use the phrase when people wouldn’t expect it. Reward people unexpectedly and they’ll go the extra mile next time. I know people have expressed surprise, saying that they didn’t think they’d done much but I always insisted that they deserved the compliment as I was happy.
Fast forward a decade or more and I find myself hearing the phrase in the most unlikely places. A couple of times in the last week I’ve overheard gratitude declaring, “You’re a star!” in that same casual way at the end of a conversation, when I’m sure I’ve not heard it from other people before. Am I noticing something that has always been there just because I’m attuned to it, but if that’s the case why only recently? I’ve been attuning myself for a decade and a half or more. Whatever the case, if I thought of it, perhaps many other people had the same idea.
Crowley claimed to be the vehicle of the new aeon, whatever than meant. (Actually I know what he meant by that, but it’s not what I wanted to discuss today.) But perhaps his influence is subtler in many ways. He made it onto the cover of Sgt Pepper’s as one of the, ‘People we like,’ along with Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas and Lenny Bruce (who is not afraid). Even if his influence is only to encourage people to be nice to each other in this unexpected way he will have had a profound impact on the future. Perhaps that would be the most valuable influence one might think of and more valuable than starting a new religion.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, please come back and even subscribe, you know, “You’re a star!”