I think all of us want to be famous meaning we want to be admired and love more than we can possibly be. We want to be the BMOC or BWOC. And some of us get to be but most of us are confined to obscurity and left with the vicarious satisfaction that comes from glomming onto (identifying with) popular heroes—sports stars, movie stars, musicians, political figures…and in my case, literary greats.
But I think we can still take great satisfaction in being insignificant For, life is inherently paradoxical, nothing is as it seems, and if we look carefully at what we are doing we can take great satisfaction in our meagre, “insignificant” station in life. If we have the humility to realize that our prime responsibility is to merely show up and fulfill our responsibilities…mundane though they may be…then we are doing our part in keeping this dog-and-pony show afloat. And that IS significant and we can take the same satisfaction that we could have if we were famous! There IS glory and power in mere Be-ing. And ultimately, there is found the only Glory and Power in the universe even for those who are the movers-and-shakers in our world.
T. S. Eliot advised us to “offer our deeds to oblivion.” That was not nihilistic…he was a man of great Christian faith. He was merely noting that we should live our life as productively and meaningfully as we can and then realize that the outcome is beyond us, and we must trust that our actions will be helping to the unfolding of God’s purpose. Eliot, in the same marvelous poem, The Four Quartets, said that this faith requires merely, “prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.” Here is a marvelous poem by Naomi Shihab Nye about this type of “fame,” entitled, Famous:
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.