When I hear the word fame I often think of that lyric from the 80’s Fame TV series. You remember it, “Fame, I’m gonna live forever”. There are also lyrics that speak of making it to heaven and a plea to “remember my name”. Other parts of the song just repeat the word “remember” over and over and over.
The desire for fame seems to stem from the desire for “unity”, connecting with others, wanting to be remembered and wanting to remember others, not to mention the desire for eternal life, but the logic of worldly fame rests on a fallacy. It is a very strange idea indeed that our fulfillment depends on the thoughts, opinions and applause of others. What an odd desire to want to live always in imagination of others, as if that were the only place one could at last be real.
The phenomenon of reality TV seems to be a good example of the human desire for fame gone wild. It is one of those peculiar ways in which humans are different than animals, and it isn't just a matter of spectrum. Just like “religion” and “the arts” and even wearing clothes, some things are uniquely human and separate us from animals. Consider the animal closest to us. About 96% of a chimps DNA is genetically similar to ours, but they share 0% our religions, 0% of art & music and 0% of our clothes. I wouldn't necessarily expect a 96% match in these areas, but if all we essentially are is a self-running DNA code, I would expect greater than a 0% similarity. No primitive religious rituals or sacrifices, no primeval drum beats or structured dance, no basic cave drawings or banana sculptures, not so much as a fig leaf to cover their shame, and of course, no evidence of desiring “fame”.
Desires that are uniquely human can relate to the principle that every innate desire reveals the existence of its desired object. For example, hunger indicates the existence of food, thirst indicates the existence of water, and curiosity indicates knowledge. Similarly, the desire for perfect unity, living forever and being remembered forever, indicate the real existence of such things, even the desire to worship something above nature points to the existence of something supernatural worthy of worship.
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:
Even false religion points to the existence of true religion; consider how the existence of counterfeit money suggests the existence of real money, even if one had never seen real money.
In the self-centered attempt to make a name for ourselves, we echo the sin of the Babel Tower Builders in Genesis 11:4. They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name…" Instead of trying to make a name for yourselves, let God make your names great and “rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:20). “…and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen 12:2)
Fame allows one to be remembered after this life as a way to “live-on” indefinitely. We all want to be remembered and to remember others. It reminds me of a homily I once heard about an elderly man married for many years. He would regularly visit his wife in a nursing home. She had a severe case of advanced Alzheimer’s disease and she had no idea who he even was, but we would still come to see her anyway. Some said to the husband, “She doesn't even remember you. Why do you bother to visit her so often?” The husband answered in protest, “Because I remember her!!!”
Our desire for fame (union, eternal life, remembrance) is wasted on trying to live on in the imagination of others, but can be realized in union with God and the Eucharist can offer us the source and summit of these desires. We go to communion and think about what the word communion means; unity, intimacy, closeness. The imagery of the vine & the branches show the kind of living closeness we are talking about. Remain in Him and He will remain in you (see John 15:4-5). We all want to live forever and that is what we are offered in the Eucharist. His body and His blood as real food and real drink; real nourishment for the journey to eternal life (see John 6:53-55).
Let’s not forget about remembrance. The Eucharist is all about remembering. “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) We have remembered Jesus for nearly 2000 years, but we also want to be remembered and remembered forever. Instead of trying to live-on in the imagination of strangers in the fallacy of worldly fame, let’s remember His promise to remember us…“I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mathew 28:20) Let us remember too His name as Emmanuel, God is with us. Amen.