“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
– Jesus, in John 10:14
So you want to be famous.
Perhaps you equate fame with success. After all, if your name is in the papers, in magazines, and bantered about on TV, then you must be successful. At something. Good or bad, legal or criminal, profitable or unprofitable, dead or alive, at least people know your name and think you are somebody worth talking about.
A quick glance at the newspaper and recap of names in lead stories in the news makes me think maybe fame does not always, or even usually, equate with success. Crime, grand failures, horrors and tragedies, scandals, disease, and unusual death – these are not generally headlining stories of success.
Perhaps you assume fame brings respect. Sometimes, but too many also find that fame brings unwarranted and sometimes unbearable scrutiny, as has been the case in the recent blowout “Kony 212” video that went viral generating an unprecedented more than 100 million views in a few short weeks in March 2012. The founders of the fairly young, quite productive organization, Invisible Children, were castigated for their successes and failures, as well as for many potentially great causes they have not yet attempted to address. Of course, the purpose of their video was to help make the number one fugitive most wanted by the International Criminal Court “famous” – i.e. not respected – in hopes it would help lead to his arrest for brazenly terrorizing hundreds of thousands of citizens in several African nations over the last quarter century.
Indeed, thousands of criminals are “famous” for their crimes, but not respected. Their names are known, but their lives are not celebrated or remembered with joy, but with pain and sorrow and regret and shame.
Even those whose endeavors are worthy, and perhaps whose lives are admirable in some way, find that fame often brings heavy burdens such as loss of privacy, vast conspiracies of rumors, stalkers, and mongers of all types. Fame Boulevard is littered with poster stars of abuse, deceit, depression, divorce, and ugly or untimely death.
Perhaps you equate fame with riches. Yes, some people become successful and rich, and famous for one or the other, or both.
But, fame does not always bring riches, as evidenced by the following persons who died mostly penniless and unknown in their own lifetime: Johannes Gutenberg, credited with inventing the printing press and changing the face of mass communication. Herman Melville, author of the classic famed novel, Moby Dick. Oskar Schindler, inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List. Clarence Saunders, founder of Piggly Wiggly grocery stores and inventor of the modern grocery store. Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the television.
Even when fame does bring riches, the list of those who have succumbed to destructive lifestyles made possible and exacerbated by their riches is quite extensive.
Perhaps you assume more fame means more friends. Perhaps, but even in these days where we can gauge our “fame” by our number of Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, and YouTube views, how many even within anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s number of 150 (the suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships) are truly friends?
Even more interesting is the number of famous people who have indicated that in truth, they live lonely lives. Outwardly, they are surrounded by fame, riches, and flocks of adoring fans, but inwardly, fame has ruined them, poisoned their minds, and stolen their souls.
Perhaps, then, fame is mostly overrated. In fact, in all the history of the world and across the whole of your life, there is only one person who truly needs to know your name – Jesus Christ. Even if you are completely unknown to the rest of all humanity, but Jesus calls you by name and knows you as a friend, that is not only enough, it is the only fame that matters.
Published in Meat and Potatoes for the Soul, Copyright © 2013 by K. Lynn Lewis.