Fame, Personal Development, Philosophy, The Great Adventure, The Heroic Life

Purpose: To Inspire

As June 21 draws near I confront my motivations for the journey ahead. This is Part I of a three part series on why I’m going on the Adventure.

Fame & Inspiration

For a long time I denied that I wanted to pursue fame. Fame is not a goal usually associated with spirituality.  I was very open about it when I was a teenager. I was sure I’d go down in history. In retrospect this is a healthy motivation we should encourage in young people. To crumple that kind of drive is a crime.

But crumple we do.

We want people to be humble. To be spiritual or mature or social or likable, you are supposed to downplay your ambition and self-esteem. Put yourself down with a smile, we like you better that way.

Working to be respected as a priest, to found a temple and to excel at interfaith work, I learned to wear the mask of humility that’s expected of leaders.

Then I forgot it was a mask.

Meditating on an isolated sheep farm I confronted the barb in my heart. Why aren’t you doing what you’re meant to do?

I was afraid my lifelong dream was too selfish, would be too silly to ever voice. People don’t say, “I want to be famous.” Only kids say that. But I do want to be famous.

I can’t tell you, the gods, or anyone why I feel a drive for fame. It’s as natural to me as my love of the outdoors. To die famous is so essentially me it feels like Fate, except I don’t believe in fate. So let’s just say it’s who I am.

I choose to accept that. And more: I love it.

The Value

We are told to regard fame as: un-spiritual, egoistic, unrealistic, childish. It must be a selfish goal. Here’s an alternative perspective on fame. Fame can be an inspiration. As inspiration, fame has the power to improve the world. It becomes selfless.

There was a time when it was considered virtuous to seek immortality through fame, and fame through accomplishment. This is much better for society than meekness. When we challenge ourselves to attain the utmost, we create a culture of inspiring others to move forward.

The difference lies in the motivation. If you seek fame only for your own glory it’s selfish. I used to think this way when I was 14 or 15. Now I’m much more interested in seeing how I can use my life to help the people around me experience happiness.

Many people start a good path with selfish goals. If they’re sincere they will purify.

The Form

So how do I pursue fame and inspiration?

It would be fun to go down as the greatest magician of the 21st century. Or to become a famous writer—that’s a dream anyone can understand.

Those are parts of who I am, but there’s one thread that runs unwavering through it all.

Philosophy.

Philosophy is my love affair. It’s my formal training, a personal strength, and the one skill I’ve used in all my other pursuits as author, adventurer, priest, and artist. It is the project of how best to live a life.

My approach is tactile. I use my own daily life as a living drawing board for my ideas. It gives me advantages and hurdles compared to an academic, but it certainly delivers results.

And that’s the power of the Great Adventure. It’s the ultimate practice of experimental philosophy. A trip isn’t worthy of fame—walking really far is impressive but it’s just my personal project. But if that experience can be distilled into something to share with others, then the huge risk is worth it.

So the first purpose of the Great Adventure could be written as:

To inspire courage through the power of adventure.

To become a famous philosopher.

To raise spirits.

As I admit and embrace this purpose, what advice can you offer me? What should I learn and bear in mind as I pursue it?

If you enjoy reading Rogue Priest, believe in my journey, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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20 thoughts on “Purpose: To Inspire

  1. Beth says:

    In college I wanted to be famous, which to me basically meant that people would want me to appear on public radio. :)

    It’s only literally in the last week, (actually, due to a conversation with you!), that I’m realizing that I don’t think I actually care whether I’m famous in that way. What I really want is to feel that I am respected for my work. That is what makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something with my life. That doesn’t necessarily mean speaking on NPR. But when I was in college, the only way I knew to be “respected” was to be considered enough of an expert to be called by the radio station, so hat’s what I wanted to achieve.

    For me, this new definition of what I want for myself leaves much more room for happiness. Because it seems to me that who becomes “famous” is a pretty dicey thing. Lots of people become famous for no good reason, and plenty of others go unknown even though they are doing great good. I don’t want my sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to be left in the control of a system with such a strange definition of worth. To me, that’s not about downplaying my abilities; it’s about freeing myself to serve my real abilities and the real needs of the world, regardless of whether it’s going to be popular enough to make me famous.

    Not that any of that necessarily has any bearing on your journey; it’s just my version of what Kass said on your previous post, about how one’s understanding of what one wants sometimes changes as one lives. It does make me think of a few questions for you, though:

    1) Do you have examples of the “kind” of fame you want? People who are famous in the way you want to be, or not in the way you want to be?

    2) It sounds to me like the impulse to be famous exists separate from and before the impulse to do good, and you have found a way to marry the two. Which is kind of the definition of finding your purpose, really. What if you found yourself being famous but not feeling like it was doing good for anyone, or you were doing good and not becoming famous? What if you were to fall prey to my concerns above, wherein a fickle society controls whether you meet your goals? I don’t mean this as a criticism, more as a potential warning – I would hate to see you feeling crushed against the rocks of the game that is fame, and I’m hoping you will be aware of that so you have some options available in your philosophy in case that were to happen.

    3) Have you thought about the choices this might force you to make along the way? I think part of the reason that wanting to be famous gets a bad rap is that many people cause harm to others in pursuit of that goal. Whether it’s “selling out” as Kass talked about, or the artist who abandons his wife and kids to poverty because he wants to go to some island to create his greatest work, there are lots of stories in which the desire to be famous seems to drive people to harm anyone who doesn’t fit into that plan. Because if you seek fame, you are serving a very specific master, and that master doesn’t necessarily care about what is good or right; it just cares about what gets press. So, if an integral part of seeking out fame is doing it in a way that multiplies the good you can do, how will you weight the influence fame might give you against the actions you might have to take that might cause other kinds of damage? Or do you think that’s a false dichotomy, and people who fall prey to it are just not seeing clearly?

    Again, no judgment implied here, just want to explore this further!

    • Those are great questions, Beth! I’ve had several friends rise to fame in their fields of study/specialty and I’ve experienced the changes in their attitudes and personality. Some say that friends hate it when their friends become successful and then those friendships end. I found it to be the opposite. Friends and family members often get abandoned by the person who gets famous, especially when the fame achieved comes with fortune amassed too quickly. I will not name names, but one guy in particular changed his personality so drastically, it made me wonder if I ever really knew him at all. Even worse, while I was seeking a position in the same career, he ended up being a personal obstacle in my path because, not only was it a small industry where it was who you knew that marked the steps of the ladder to your success, but it was inevitable that you would bump heads with ex-boyfriends if you dated anyone. I learned valuable lessons about fame, particularly about what NOT to do, especially when it comes to treating other people.

      I have been rejected by my heroes. In fact, I should write about that as a cautionary tale… this gives me food for thought. However, I wish to write about that with a positive bent because, to address Drew here, I do not count on him to become that kind of disappointing figure, nor do I think he wants to be one.

      I’m always questioning whether or not the people I hero worship are truly worthy of such worship because I’ve been through horrible situations that should have left me bitter and angry for the rest of my life.

    • Thanks for this Beth, this is very in-depth.

      I think your shift from “fame” to “being respected in my job” is similar to my shift from fame to “inspiring people.” Fame, like money, is something that has no value of its own. It has value in what it allows you to do. The result is that many people start off thinking they just want to get famous (or rich) and then realize that goal falls through to something much deeper, such as inspiring people or being respected.

      To answer your questions:

      1. Gilgamesh.

      2. Fame in itself is ambivolent. There are many ways to seek fame, ethical and unethical. I’m under vows to live an ethical life and my philosophy is built around the idea of unrelentingly following my ideals. Plus I just think it feels better to help people. I don’t think this will come into conflict with my goal to become a famous philosopher. I believe that one of the surest and most long-lasting routes to fame comes from living your life around a goal that helps other people. That’s the kind of fame I want to pursue.

      3. There will definitely be tough choices. One advantage I have is I know myself well enough to know that I’ll put my goals and idelas before anything else. That would make me a bad husband or father. I wouldn’t make enough time for my family. So it’s unlikely that I’ll get married or have children, at least until much later in life when I can focus on them. I think a lot of people don’t realize what they’re getting into. They end up with conflicting priorities and strain their relationships to friends and family. I’m just going to focus on my three priorities – fame to inspire others, described above, and the other two that will be coming up in the series.

      If it sounds like I’m very confident about handling these issues, I guess I am. I feel born to do this. All of your questions are very good, and I hope my answers might help someone who wants to be famous for their art. But to me there are no questions – it’s what I’ve been training for all my life.

      • Beth says:

        Excellent reply. I’m not surprised in the least that you have thought about these things in depth, and it’s one of the reasons that, like others have said, I didn’t really think you would fall prey to some of the issues raised here. But it’s still good to actually see that I was right about that. :)

  2. On the subject of fame – MLK Jr. talks very eloquently about this – the desire to lead, to be the best, to be known – in his speech called “The Drum Major Instinct” (A twenty minute video – well worth it, tho: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XmqjGvr8fk ).

    A lot of what I have to say echoes what he says there. The drive towards fame, like all desires, has its root in something inherently positive, and depending on how you go about this, it can reap amazing rewards.

    One thing that MLK doesn’t touch on – trying to become famous makes your sense of self dependent to a certain extent on other people’s opinions of what you are, and there is always going to be a certain disconnection between how you show yourself and how they see you. In the long run this leads to serious self-questioning and a kind of identity crisis. This is related to success and fame in almost any area – Neil Gaiman talks about that in his commencement speech, which is also really really good. (Another twenty minute video =) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikAb-NYkseI – this is an amazing speech in general.)

    I have this same drive, Drew.

    • I have this same drive, Drew.

      Cheers to you, good sir. I love it when people have this drive!

      You raise really good points about fame. I think there is a cost to in terms of sense of self. I’m not sure I’ll ever question who I am in the sense of losing sight of it, but I think chasing fame requires giving up a certain amount of sense of self. You aren’t necessarily you so much as you become a symbol. Not that I’m anywhere near that. But I think that’s the cost that’s demanded if you seek big fame.

      Lady Gaga said something in an interview once. When she gets up in the morning she just feels like herself, full of anxiety and uncertainty. Then she says, “You’re Lady Gaga,” and becomes Lady Gaga. Sometimes as I leave the house I remind myself: “You’re a priest of the heroic god. Act aaccordingly.”

  3. You were losing me for a bit, but then you tied it up nicely.

    It sounds like this trip would have less meaning for you, if you couldn’t share it. I think it will have profound meaning either way. I am happy you’re sharing it.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting fame. It’s the methods one uses to achieve and keep it that are often dangerous. In you’re endeavor, I think you’re safe.

    Really liked this piece. It’s honest and open to criticism.

  4. For awhile I didn’t want to read this blog entry. I was too consumed by memories of the past adventures and experiences we shared. I was all too reminded that your Great Adventure will pale anything we did together in comparison. In the past I always used to brag that “we” would take over the world together, which was a bit childish to wish, and sentimental. After the trip to Beaver Island, I fell into a depression because getting back to my day job and you to college was BORING. I wanted to continue to rough it, to keep the adventures going, to not stop exploring, for us to stay up night after night, day after day comparing notes and chasing after mysteries… why did that have to end? Then one day, after a failed attempt of yours to cheer me up, you said, “Why do you have to rely on me for adventure?”

    It wasn’t that I was relying on you to bring on the adventure. It was that it was just more awesome to share adventures with you. Everyone else just pooped out on me. It’s never been the same since. I’ve had many friends since you whom I’ve gone on trips with, explored abandoned places, even went on paranormal investigations, and shared moving spiritual experiences, yet they wimp out and run away. They don’t stand with me at the shore and wait in the mist hoping to see what may emerge. They don’t sit and sing on the tops of rocks. They fear climbing to the tops of hills and they don’t follow me into the dark while visiting an unlit cemetery at night. No. Friends tremble behind me, cling to my back, only go if I go first, or say, “maybe that’ll be fun for you but not for me” but the things I do aren’t *that* brave. They are small things. My adventures are mere happenings in the dark.

    Even though we may never share a monumental adventure like the journey you are about to embark on, I’ll never forget that I am a part of your history, still a part of your life, and this makes me very proud. I hope you are proud to call me friend, too, and remember that if you ever need me, I am *always* at your side… even if you’re a world away.

    • It’s funny Val… at the time we were on Beaver Island I thought you hated it and wanted to go home. Maybe you did; we all did sometimes. But retrospective is the real reward of adventure, and after we came back I could see how it had an effect on you. Thanks for reminding me.

      Keep the spirit alive, Val.

      • Really? Wow, I suppose I should have communicated better with you. :-)

        Looking back, the three of us had our moody moments and we pulled through. Knowing all the pitfalls now, I’ve managed to have better adventures. Our group study was a “tempering” I believe and it made us very strong!

        No problem. I love telling the stories.
        We may have different view points, but, hey, that’s the beauty of sharing adventures with friends, you get to see what went on from someone else’s eyes, too.

        I’m ANXIOUS to read about your stories from the road, but at the same time, it’s also the anticipation that kinda kills me as well. I know you must feel it way MORE than I do, of course, yet here, at home, my heart is dancing to the point of almost too much. Talk about “to inspire?” Well, I remember times traveling along with you and trying to keep up with you, sometimes being pulled and pushed by you! Nowadays I’m that way with other people, or I simply just go it alone. But you know what…?

        Yeah, I don’t think that spirit is ever going to die, Drew. If ever you need reminding, or inspiration, you just call on me and I’ll give you a passion punch back at ya!

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  7. Rua Lupa says:

    I had a little internal laugh upon reading your admition of wanting fame. Because there is a biological reason behind that want, especially why it is so prevalent in teens. For an individual to become well known, is a form of gaining respect – you don’t hear about ‘nobodys’ because they are quickly ignored and forgotten. In so gaining that respect you gain prime access to the mates of your choice. The offspring of those mates will inherit this fame and therefore have a better chance of having a higher quality of life, and so do their offspring, and so on and so forth. For as long as the fame holds the progeny gain higher success over those that are from non-famous lineages. This is easily observed in most group species, and especially in primate colonies. Being a primate yourself, it is only natural. ^_^

    In human societies, fame is easily recognized and so is its impacts. Often the progeny of famed people feel forced to uphold the legacy of the one who started it all. Fame also causes those who’ve witnessed or have heard about it, to do the same in attempt to gain the same success. The crux is what ever causes this fame, is it productive or destructive? Some gain fame from being war heroes, and therefore more people enlist to become that hero. Some gain fame by doing stunts, and therefore more people try to do stunts. In these two examples it is easy to see the leanings toward destructive results. It need not always be the case. Some gain fame from protecting the defenseless in dire situations. So others do so. Some gain fame through discovery which causes enlightenment and possibly prosperity through this new discovery, so others go to do the same. With this last example it really depends on the discovery. It could be a discovery of a new mineral that would advance technology, but as a result it degrades the environment and people who live in areas mined for this mineral. But it could also be the discovery of the cure for aids.

    The famous are the pebble in the pond that cause ripples of change, however long or significant that change may be, the famous always cause change. But its the truly famous who are the earthquake that causes a tsunami of irrevocable change. The point is, what kind of change would that be? Attila the Hun kind of change or the Buddha kind of change? Or perhaps something entirely different, otherwise what’s the point?

    • As a priest, I guess I hope more for Buddha kind of change :)

      And you’re right about the biological basis for it, but then, everything we do has that biological basis. I write this blog to get laid; you go hiking to get laid. Indirectly. But I think there are more direct causes for why we do things, and those are interesting too. Fame has a lot of social cache and gives us leverage in pursuing our other desires, just like money does.

      • Rua Lupa says:

        I don’t know about the hiking to get laid part, its not like I am finding random studs in the woods :D But I guess my hiking experiences might differ from others :P In truth, my urge for hiking is for environmental stimuli. For example, today I stalked a deer until I was approx 20 feet away. Fame is quite a bit more direct being highly akin to “showing off”.

        Yea, the social cache is part of what I meant by ‘success’. All of which I see as the whole meaning of success really.

        • Oh, when you hike you definitely do it to get laid – perhaps because getting in shape, or seeing new places, or finding food along the way are ways to ensure you reproduce successfully. At least according to biological determinism. If you don’t truck with biological determinism then the reasons you hike may not relate to getting laid, but then, same goes for the reasons I seek fame :)

          • Rua Lupa says:

            Having achieved my reproductive biological imperative, I tend to be more focused on the other imperatives and recruitment now – speaking biologically of course :D

            Not denying that its linked to getting laid, but is less direct than fame seeking. Hiking gets you fit and keeps you looking good for that potential mate, Fame is getting that potential mate to notice you and is a direct invite for socialization. Its a form of courting, or mating dance if you will.

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