Fame: A Contingency Plan for Eternal Life

Heretic’s Creed is intended to be blog about theology and the historical/linguistic context of religious texts and viewpoints.  However, once in a while I get an itch to write about the more personal aspect of religion in my life.  I have decided to dedicate a post in Heretic’s Creed to this purpose from time-to-time.  This is the first installment of said posts.  

I often marvel at my own desires.  Things I regard as meaningless, shallow and utterly without value inexplicably remain an emotional catalyst of my behavior.  Though I refute them intellectually, I carry many irrational secret longings. 

One such guilty desire is fame.  Very simply, I want to be known.  Preferably as a novelist, but I’m not picky as long as it’s positive.  This urge has possessed me since I was a small child.  My history is littered with half-finished books, demo discs of flamed-out bands, and bit parts in college plays.  I even tried to write a rap song once.  It didn’t go well.  

This wouldn’t be a problem if I could keep my pipe dreams in their proper, non-emotive locations.  I hear myself say, time and time again, “I am a pragmatist.  I chose a career that is beneficial to society.  I chase my dreams in my free time, and if they don’t pan out, well, I will have 40 years of human service to hang my hat on.”  This is, without question, a true statement, however, I am emotionally incapable of accepting it.  The way I feel about myself, and the way I relate to others is affected more by my foolish dreams than my rational plans.

Example:  I have a friend who was a successful rock musician for about 10 years.  His band was signed to a moderately large label and he made a living recording music and touring.  Furthermore, he is incredibly kind, humble and fun to be around.  There is not a more “deserving” person in the world.  But when I see his albums on the shelves or his picture in a magazine I am 10% happy for him and 90% inconsolably depressed and unabashedly envious.   

I have been examining my response to my friend’s fame.  I can honestly say it is no ill will toward him, fortunately.  My response is purely internal and self-absorbed.  Seeing his fame reminds me of my lack-there-of.  Digging further, I have been trying to trace the origins of my need for recognition.  I am a modestly well-adjusted, tax-paying citizen, so what is the root of this anomaly in my self-concept?    

Doubt.    

What I thought was purely a psychological problem is, in truth, at least partially a spiritual problem.  When I assess my motivations earnestly, I discover I am truly a pragmatist after all.  Fame is my eternal life contingency plan.

If I am wrong about humans continuing a postmortem existence in some fashion, then creating a legacy on Earth is the only means of attaining immortality.  Granted, it’s a poor substitute for eternal life as described by the Judeo/Christian/Islamic traditions, or even in comparison to reincarnation of the Buddhist or Hindu variety.  It barely even beats out the ancient polytheists’ concepts of Dis or Hades.  But it’s better than nothing.  I guess you could say I am diversifying my immortal portfolio. 

So if there is no continuation of life-after-death and our consciousness ceases to be, the only people to live on are those that create a lasting impression in some way.  I think this is why it stresses me out when I think about my failures to achieve notability.  My safety net isn’t hung yet, so if I die anytime soon, I will return to dust and be forgotten.   

The knee-jerk response is to say “well you family and friends will remember you!”  But I am looking at the big picture.  To live on past a few meager generations of direct associates, I would have to create memorable imprints in those I have never interacted with.  If you write a riveting book, revolutionize public policy, or touch the hearts of the masses with music, a record of your existence will continue to influence the human experience for as long man exists.  

That’s what keeps me writing.  That’s also what wakes me up at night in all-consuming panic.  I want to continue to exist.  In consciousness or in memory.  I want to live.  

Posted on July 11, 2014 .