Fame and Reincarnation

Quote of the Day: “fame… It breaks your heart” Kristen Johnston writing at her blog.

I’ve spent some time over the years contemplating Fame and its poor cousin Celebrity (and written occasional posts as well). Why we mortals are so enthralled by it and why so many chase after it.

Although I’ve not dedicated my life to becoming rich (and succeeded rather well at not doing so) I can understand those who do. When I was making ‘good money’ for a few years I was able to enjoy it without guilt because I’d spent many years living paycheque to paycheque. Sure, money won’t buy happiness but it is nice not to have to shop to a short, precise, list at the Dollar Store. Although most of us will work hard and put up with discomfort (if not outright pain) for at least some person or cause it’s also true that most of us would like to be comfortable from time to time. As a side note- Dad always says that a very well-off person, when cornered as to their economic situation, will often say “Well, I’m comfortable“.

But the quest to be famous? Perhaps being a young gay man 40 years ago, I could only imagine notoriety or social stigma as the way I would ever be well-known by people unknown to me. Even as I dreamt of being great friends with any number of people of repute, I had no desire to become one myself. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that many people hunger for fame of some level. From an early age there are those that demand attention. We say some of them are ‘natural-born leaders’ or ‘destined for greatness’ or that they ‘will be famous (or infamous) before they die’. And now Andy Warhol’s prediction that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” (a riff, perhaps, on the works of the late Marshall McLuhan) is fast becoming true- although 15 minutes would seem to be an over-all average rather than a constant.

However, I see such fleeting attention as mere celebrity or notoriety rather than full-blown fame. That deep-seated need to be recognized by everyone, everywhere. To see your name and your image on magazines (well, now on monitors) so often that your Press Agent has to add staff to keep track. The sort of person exemplified by Glee’s Rachel Berry.

Kristen’s experiences with other famous people is anecdotal rather than a scientific study, and inevitably tinted by her own experience (she is open about her being ‘in recovery’ and her blog discusses addiction more than anything else). But clearly the type of person[ality] that will endure everything involved in reaching the pinnacle of fame (or the pinnacle of just about any profession or endeavour) is driven by an extreme need. Or as she writes “this THING that would mean your life was wonderful and you weren’t broken, this THING you’ve given your heart, dreams, soul, trust & love to since you were a kid…” Sure sounds pathological. Of course I am not a licensed or trained therapist, and I often think that most of us (at least, in these ‘modern’ Western societies) are pathological to some degree. I recall John Bradshaw saying that someone once asked him if he had really said that “90% of modern families are dysfunctional” to which he had replied that no, he had said that 100% are.

Here I must take time to point out that I have some friends/ acquaintances ‘in the biz’ who are relatively normal and seem well-adjusted. Perhaps they are not driven as strongly by the dark energy that Kristen describes; or maybe they are just great actors. All generalizations are false (as is that one).

Perhaps in the end it boils down to the human condition; we may learn plenty of facts but stubbornly refuse to avoid cliches. “I wish that just once people wouldn’t act like the clichés that they are,” (Claire Fisher, Six Feet Under episode 1.03). Yet as I sit here wishing I had the money to engage in a real kick-@ss Midlife Crisis how can I question a new generation of fame-seeking wannabees? I’m in a pretty good mood today, or I would ask if it’s even possible for humankind to ever make progress on a spiritual or philosophical level if we are bound to repeat such patterns individually. Forget about becoming our parent[s] as we age; we seem destined to repeat much older patterns.

Perhaps belief in reincarnation arises not from a fear of death so much as a subconscious desire to have multiple lifetimes to really learn how to be a fully-realized human animal. A ‘do-over’ as it were. Certainly as I edge past the midpoint of my 50s I see that I have at least another 50 years of projects and dreams to realize.

Now that I’ve totally lost site of the opening line, and the subject of fame, I guess its time to stop. Or ramble on about how most people feel they are the reincarnation of Cleopatra or other major historical figure….

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