“Why am I grown Old in seeking so barren a Reward as Fame?
The same Parts and Application, which have made me a Poet, might have rais’d me to any Honours of the Gown, which are often given to Men of as little Learning and less Honesty than myself.”
“I feel like I’ve swallowed a cloudy sky.”
Fame is an appealing concept to almost everyone. Hear me out. Even if you are one of those people who say “I don’t want to be famous”, you actually do. Yup. Maybe not ‘red carpet’ famous, but instead maybe if but for one minute ‘noticed by many’ famous.
At the crux of this mental battle we all have is: at what price would we pay for it … this ‘fame’? What price would we pay even for a sliver of fame?
Would you pay anything for “so barren a reward as fame” as John Dryden characterized it? What is the exchange you are willing to make?
Which leads me to selfies, instagram, pinterest, tumblr, Tiktok … pick one.
In technology’s world of the web we are not seeking our 15 minutes of fame, but our 15 seconds of fame with two paths lying ahead:
<a> hoping it will either turn into 15 days of fame as it gets reposted & discussed & editorialized, or
<b> hoping it turns into nothing … as it is embarrassing in reflection.
Therein lies the challenge of gaining fame … even a sliver.
Anyway. I have a theory about fame. Ok. I actually have two theories.
To be clear, these theories, theorems, postulates, whatever you would like to deem whatever glimpse of brilliance or absurdity within what I share, its my own with no research; just looking around at people and having listened & watched probably a million through my professional career.
Genes. Chrissie Hynde <Pretenders lead singer> said this once:
“As far as success goes, I’ve never really got too excited about losing or winning. I don’t have whatever the gene is you need for that. Whatever the gene John McEnroe has, I don’t have that.
I don’t care.”
Some people don’t simply crave fame. It is part of their DNA. It is in their genes. I say this because far too many of us <myself included> mock the fame seekers as narcissistic or shallow or, well, pick your poison, but, the reality is that they simply have a gene we do not.
This doesn’t mean I have to find it likable. It simply means I need to recognize that not everyone is the same. And it also means we need to step back and recognize that fame can be used for good or for bad and that fame, while sought, is rarely controlled by the ‘soughter.’
My sense is that to most of us every day schmucks that the whole concept of fame is simply a means to an end, i.e., a vague concept that really has to do with esteem and self worth.
That we are good at something.
Conversely, we fear be mediocre. Ok. Let me clarify. We fear being 100% mediocre and that fear affects how we view ourselves.
Looking at ourselves internally and looking at our selves externally seem to rarely match. We are either inflated with regard to ourselves or we have some deflated view of ourselves.
Neither is good.
“All I ever asked of life was that it should pass me by without my even noticing it.”
This is where that 15 seconds, or 15 minutes, of fame steps in. A spotlight shows us, even for a glimpse in time, some reality.
Something, well, good.
That we are actually good at something.
That people recognize it.
And that moment is it.
Most of us don’t desire more than that. Just the validation is enough. We can step back into our lives content and continue the grind. Even if we continue the grind with a slightly livelier step knowing that somewhere someone valued us and our contribution.
And, yes, I am unequivocally discussing fame.
Not the smile of a child, the nuzzling from your dog, or even some very personal soulful evaluation and endorsement of your behavior which can provide valuable value affirmation, but differently than fame.
I am discussing fame as is in the harshest glimpse of society and life.
The unhesitating judgment of a cold and often brutal world. Unbiased personally you know when you walk away you weren’t cheated in judgment.
And in that judgment you were noticed and passed judgment.
“Everyone deserves a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.”
R. J. Palacio
To be clear. The corrolary to what i just shared is your flaws, mistakes, misjudgements, also can get scritinized in the spotlight. Hence my opening where I offered an A path and a B path. Wander into the spotlight at your own risk.
That said. Fame, using Dryden’s language, it is most often not found in “the torrent of the people” or “the riot of a multitude.” Fame is most often found in a moment where the price is nothing more than facing our insecurities on whether we are good enough.
And, in that moment, the fame pendulum can swing far one way or the other.
And the world stands and stares.
We are good enough.
And the world stands and stares.
Simplistically, therein lies the price of fame.
The fact you will find out whether you are good enough. And maybe that’s why we all seek some version of fame at some point. Maybe we all really do want to know the truth; harsh or not. Maybe, just maybe, that is what fame, to the non-egotistical, is really about.
Because attaining a rich reward, or, so barren a reward, is a reward nonetheless.