Monday, October 28, 2013


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.

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.


  1. One could argue that the quest for immortality, even in memory, lead to to concept of heaven. We are self aware, and struggle with the idea that this self awareness will disappear after our short four score years. We have to accept it, live with it (so to speak) and make our goal to leave the world a better place than we found it and be satisfied with the hope that good memories of us will live on in the minds of the people we have known and helped.

    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"

    Do fake psychics suggest the existence of real psychics?

    1. Hi R1,
      Psychic powers…The underlying desire for the supernatural suggests the existence of the supernatural.

    2. Hello Ben,

      No, and I don't think you would want to adopt that as a criterion for evaluating the truth of a position. One could say the fact that there are so many astrologers suggests that the planets may influence one's life. The fact that homeopathy is widespread suggests that impossibly dilute treatments have efficacy, the fact that so many people report alien abductions suggest it is really happening. None of those statements suggest anything of the sort, only that people need to work on their credulity.

    3. Think of the underlying desires. People look (sometimes desperately) to astrology and the planets because they desire a “destiny”. This implies the existence of a destiny, just like hunger implies the existence of food. People look (sometimes desperately) for aliens because they desire there to be something “greater than ourselves”. We desire not to be alone in the universe. This implies that there actually is something greater and we are not alone. The proof from desire is a type of proof or evidence. No one can force you accept it, but it is reasonable. I think it even follows a kind of evolutionary logic. If it did not exist, there is no sense in wasting resources hunting for it.

    4. I'm commenting because this is very suspect reasoning. People desire many things, but that does not necessarily mean there is a reality behind the desire.

      Wanting there to be aliens in no way makes aliens a necessity. The proof from desire is not taken credibly at all (C.S. Lewis aside). While it might apply for real world situations like hunger, thirst, sleep, it doesn't necessarily follow for metaphysical questions. Indeed real world situations are more needs than desire. For example, I need food, I desire steak.

      Also the desire for God is not universal, it's cultural. I feel no desire for a deity and neither do most atheists. And for those who desire something greater than oneself, it can be filled in myriad ways other than the Christian God, aliens being one of them.

      On a personal level I desire that there is a solution to the Riemann Zeta hypothesis yet Godel's incompleteness theorem tells me that this may be a question that has no solution, however much I may desire it.

    5. Based on your comments on our blog, it seems you sincerely desire “goodness” and “truth”. In Catholic theology one could say this is the same as desiring God. You may be closer to The Kingdom than you think. Cheers!

    6. We mostly all desire goodness and truth but one must pursue those with not with a desire to a predetermined outcome, but a desire to find the truth where ever that leads and as much as one can .

      “It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.” Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist's Year


    7. R1,

      A brief comment. The argument from desire is not a proof in that it is not conclusive, but a piece of corroborative evidence.


    8. As to your comment on Truth, I very much agree!

    9. It's certainly not a proof and should be viewed as extremely suspect as corroborative evidence and its fraught with subjective abuse. One could use desires inherent in the human condition to extrapolate to all sorts of metaphysical entities. And also what desires are inherent and what are cultural. WIth the growing number of atheists in Western society, who lack that desire, there's growing evidence that this is cultural rather than inherent.