Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


The Only Worthwhile Fame

Muir Beach, California, USA

October 6, 2009



This essay, The Only Worthwhile Fame, is the companion piece to

There's a blurred, fuzzy line between wealth  and fame. They may occur together. Often they don't. If they always did, all wealthy people would be famous and all famous people would be wealthy. Clearly this isn't the case.

Neither wealth nor fame are clear cut. There's a great deal of ambiguity in what it means to be wealthy. Do we, in a rather simplistic view, only refer to wealth as having "a lot"  of money? In which case, exactly how much is "a lot"?  Enough to own an island in a Fijian atoll when others make do with a rented quarter acre lot in the 'burbs?  Enough to collect and restore more than, say, twenty Duesenberg  and other classic vintage cars when others walk miles to work every day because they can't afford a bus ticket? Enough to acquire a Manhattan penthouse when others will only ever squat? Enough to pay the rent and come out even when others consider themselves lucky if there's an available bed in the homeless shelter? Enough to buy a bag of rice once a week to feed a family of four when entire tribes are wiped out by famine? Exactly how much money is "a lot"  of money?

Or is it possible wealth, that is to say true  wealth, isn't measured by money at all? Is true wealth, rather, measured by joie de vivre, by a passion given simply by waking up alive every morning? Is true wealth measured by having the grace  to take on living at source  ie to take on inventing a life worth living by consideration alone?  Perhaps true wealth is a combination of having both money and  joie de vivre. But not necessarily. Or perhaps not necessarily in that order.

There's also ambiguity in what it means to be famous. For the most part, we view fame as being known by "a lot"  of people. And again, exactly how much is "a lot"?  Enough to be known (if not personally  then at least heard about) by almost the entire population of the civilized world like Abraham and Moses? Enough to be known by slightly fewer music fans (but not much fewer) like John Lennon and Paul McCartney? Enough to be known by a billion or so TV viewing sports enthusiasts like Mario Andretti and Pelé? Enough to be a name brand persona  in a large city yet perhaps unknown outside its environs like Michael Tilson Thomas? Enough to be known by an entire school like the sports coach yet unknown outside the school? Exactly how many people is "a lot"  of people?

Or is it possible fame, that is to say true  fame, isn't measured by being known at all? Is true fame, rather, measured by some quality other than being known by "a lot"  of people? Maybe. Maybe not. In all likelihood, true wealth is, indeed, measured by combination of having both money and  joie de vivre - with the scales tipping in favor of joie de vivre. But true fame is pretty much cut and dried. You're famous if you known by "a lot"  of people. Period. The only variable is "How many people?" ... which equates directly with "How famous?".

We're skirting the issues. Let's cut to the chase. Here are the real issues with wealth and fame: neither wealth nor fame ensure satisfaction, happiness, nor fulfillment. Sometimes they do. Often they don't. If they always did, all wealthy people and all famous people would be satisfied, happy, and fulfilled. Clearly this isn't the case.

Perhaps a question more pertinent to ask about both wealth and fame, perhaps more pertinent  to ask than "Exactly how much is 'a lot'?"  is rather "Is it worthwhile?"  ie "Is it worthwhile  having 'a lot'  of money?". and "Is it worthwhile  being known by 'a lot'  of people?". When I look at what occurs for me inside this inquiry (and a great many possible scenarios occur for me inside this inquiry), what it all comes down to is joie de vivre, and leverage.

Wealth ie "a lot"  of money without joie de vivre doesn't sound like much fun to me. The pages of history are filled with tragic figures like Howard Hughes, parlayers of croesian  wealth whose lives ultimately personified the bizarre rather than joie de vivre. Is it worthwhile to have croesian  wealth but no joie de vivre? Ask King Midas how he feels about his solid gold daughter.

Here's the pertinent issue with wealth: only the mint can make money, yet each and every single human being has the ability at all times under all and any circumstances to transform the quality of our own lives ie to create joie de vivre. Being unaware of that fact (or, as is true in so many cases, being unwilling to confront  that fact) makes for arduous  wealth, to say the least. Arduous wealth is arguably not worthwhile.

As for fame, the pages of history are filled with figures like Michael Jackson: more than famous - revered  seems to be a more apt descriptor, who in spite of gargantuan fame and frenzied adoration still expressed the ache to be loved and appreciated.

Here's the pertinent issue with fame: fame doesn't supply love and appreciation, any more than wealth supplies joie de vivre. Yet each and every single human being has the ability at all times under all and any circumstances to transform the quality of our own lives ie to create love and appreciation. Being unaware of that fact (or, as is true in so many cases, being unwilling to confront  that fact) makes for arduous  fame, to say the least. Arduous fame is arguably not worthwhile.

So the question of what's worthwhile  with regard to both wealth and fame comes down to that which is defined by each and every single human being having the ability at all times under all and any circumstances to transform the quality of our own lives. If the money you have (regardless  of how much you have, regardless of whether you have "a lot"  or not) makes a difference  on any scale, local or worldwide, plus which  you've created for yourself a sense of joie de vivre, then you're wealthy. That's worthwhile  wealth. Period. What's interesting to note is true  wealth has waaay  less to do with having "a lot"  of money than at first thought.

And what of fame? Is there such a thing as worthwhile  fame?

George Harrison, in pioneering the original breakthrough Concert for Bangladesh  which instantly revealed the enormous power of rock concerts  to bring attention to pressing, dire worldly issues, personifies leveraging enormous widespread fame to make a difference. Perhaps this is what there is to do with fame - to leverage it to make a difference. Perhaps, it could be said, this is what makes fame worthwhile - if you're a rock star. Without leveraging fame to make a difference, fame is merely being known by "a lot"  of people. And so what?!  That makes no difference  to anyone ... except perhaps to supermarket checkout line tabloid publishers.

If you're willing to take this conversation on, you'll quickly see there's a lot about fame which, once fully gotten, may not be so worthwhile after all. For example, consider what it's like when fame goeswith  (as Alan Watts may have said) giving up your privacy like Michael Jackson. Or when fame goeswith  being targeted for assassination like John - Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lennon.

What, then, could be considered worthwhile  fame, available to each and every single human being like a creation, like a possibility?  In my book, in my reckoning, the only worthwhile fame is being famous for being who you really are  ie being famous not for what you have, being famous not for what you do  (although that's getting closer), but rather being famous for being who you really are.

Don't confuse this with a naïve debutante  or a socialite Sunday papers  kind of fame. This isn't being known for having a well coiffed identity. This kind of fame isn't based on identity. This kind of fame is based on being.

For me, this is only worthwhile fame - that is, if indeed fame is worthwhile at all: being famous simply for being who you really are.



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