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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Fame, Spotlight, Writing

Hemingway’s Long Game

He thought about alone in Constantinople that time, having quarrelled in Paris before he had gone out. He had whored the whole time and then, when it was over, and he had failed to kill his loneliness, but only made it worse, he had written her, the first one, the one who left him, a letter telling her how he had never been able to kill it…

—Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

What would it take to write that story?

The main character is an American writer who lives in Paris with his lover. They drink heavily and travel on sporting trips in exotic places. An interesting character.

Except the author, too, is an American writer who lives in Paris with his lover, drinking heavily and going sporting.

And he writes about his, er, the character’s trip to go whoring after a fight with her, and writing to the ex he still loves, before coming home and saying nothing of it.

Saying nothing, but writing it, and didn’t his lover ever read it?

And did it break her heart to know?

Truth

There are always times when the truth can hurt. More than once, when I’ve mentioned someone on this blog—and thought I was only reporting, matter-of-fact, what was said or done—they told me they didn’t like how they were “portrayed.”

Does a future girlfriend want to read about my past love? Did my mom want to read that I contemplate my death?

There is a collision of worlds that happens here, and in any responsible blog.

When it hurts it’s the author’s fault.

The Long Game

I play for the long game. I’d rather write something great than keep everyone happy.

In all his writing, Hemingway chose to be canny and blunt. He lays out the people around him exactly as he sees them: their faults as well as their virtues, but mostly their faults. His stories are thinly masked extractions from his own life. The characters represent the individuals or types he knew, and his opinions are clear.

It led to a rough life for Hemingway. The drinking, the war, and everything else helped too—but his series of shattered relationships certainly weren’t made easier by publishing exactly what he thought of them.

Still…

Those relationships are done now. The people who were hurt, all dead. Hemingway lived his personal tragedy and his time in the starring role is done.

Long after those feelings are buried, his books remain and his name stays great. He had such a sharp eye for human psychology, and said things so clearly and honestly, that it speaks to us. His stories shake you to the core because you know the people in them. You know them, and you find yourself, too.

He speaks with an honesty most writers are afraid of.

How should a blogger talk about their friends, family, and the people they meet? What do you think? Is writing something truthful and powerful worth it, if it hurts people’s feelings?

How much of your potential do you censor for others?

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Fame, Favorites

The Fame Post

Recently I admitted that I want to be a famous writer.

After I wrote about this I got a lot of responses from friends and people I respect warning me that’s a bad goal. They told me it seems shallow. I’m sure many others thought this too, and didn’t say anything.

But fame has a mixed rap, because many people who openly pursue it are admired for their big dreams.

I thought it was interesting that fame can be seen as good or bad depending on the person. I wanted to know, what’s the deciding factor? I started to do some research. Here’s the result.

Photo credit: "Luxor Sphinx Portrait" by cobalt123

1. Where Do You Come From?

In order to see how people react to fame I had to look somewhere that the quest for fame happens a lot: rock music.

In the music industry a lot of artists openly seek fame. They don’t try to hide it. But their fans don’t think they’re jerks—they love them for it.

At the same time there are many stars who deride their own fame, complain about it, or put it down. And their fans love them too.

What’s the difference?

I cracked open Milk It!, a book about 90’s alternative rock. What can I say, I’m a 90’s child. In the book, author Jim DeRogatis talks about how Pearl Jam distanced themselves from their own fame. They refused almost all interviews after their debut and front man Eddie Vedder led the band in keeping to its indie Seattle roots: low ticket prices, a fight against Ticketmaster, and self-effacing lyrics.

Jim contrasts them with Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page had every intention of creating a chart-storming band. He used his industry experience and on-stage persona to build Led Zeppelin into gods of rock. Showing no humility, they basked in their fans and enjoyed every possible excess. They even released their fourth album without their name on it just to prove it would still explode.

Both bands ruled in their time, and they even shared a similar genre. But one succeeded by relentless fame-raking and the other through almost embarrassed humility.

The difference is the background the bands come from. Led Zeppelin rose to greatness in the 70’s, a time when hard rock was the staple of working class kids. All the great classical rockers were over-the-top superstars. Pearl Jam took the limelight in the 90’s as part of the post-punk tradition, hitting it big with middle class kids. The enduring punk ideal is that the musician is just one of the fans.

Like all awesome ideas, this is a simplification, but there’s something to it. Late 80’s punk and 90’s alt-rock represented a lot of bored middle class teens whereas the 70’s rock scene in Britain came from very poor roots. The same model explains why 2000’s indie rockers are shamed for selling out while 2000’s hip-hop stars are expected to, and rap proudly about their money and success.

In other words, if you have nothing it’s OK to be super ambitious. But if you’re already comfortable, you shouldn’t talk about aiming for the top. Middle class guilt kicks in and you’re supposed to act like your success doesn’t matter to you.

This is even more true for very rich people. Listen to a CEO give a talk sometime and pay attention to the self-deprecating language. If you’re already on top, you try to act humble. In general, people bend toward the middle. Rich and poor people will describe themselves as “middle class.” Liberals and conservatives will say they are “moderate.”

So seeking fame is more acceptable if you have humble roots.

2. Choose a Focus

Another thing I discovered is that people’s reaction to ambitious fame-seekers depends very much on how you phrase your ambitions.

Instead of saying I want to be famous I decided to start saying I want to be a famous writer. This instantly changed people’s perceptions.

Photo credit: "Lady Gaga" by Q. Thomas Bower

When someone actively seeks fame, no one likes them… Oh.

When I talked about how I want to be famous, people seemed confused. I would get skeptical comments like, “That’s quite a goal.”

But if I said I want to be a famous writer, people instantly lit up. They thought that was a great dream and everyone, even total strangers, expressed encouragement. At worst someone would give me pragmatic (but obvious) advice like, “Well, that’s going to be hard to do.” But no one ever seemed put off.

I believe this has to do with focus. If you just say you want to be famous, it implies that you want all of the rewards of fame without doing anything to earn it. It also sounds like you have no plan to get there, so you’re naïve and you’re going to fail.

On the other hand saying I want to be a famous writer expresses some of your passion. It shows that you have a talent and it implies you’re willing to work in your field to achieve fame.

In general, if given a choice between a passionate hard worker and a lazy person with no plan, public opinion goes to the hard worker. Some anime characters may be exceptions.

The Nature of Fame

Fame is desirable, just like money or sex. And like those things, going after it the wrong way looks douchey. But wanting to be well-liked, respected, and remembered is something everyone can understand. In other words there is nothing wrong with fame itself, or pursuing fame. It’s all how you go about it.

Anybody else out there hoping to make it big in this lifetime? How have friends reacted? How do you talk about your ambitions?

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My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.

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