The secretary again fiddles with the remote control and the picture window fades into a view of a darkly handsome singer wailing into a microphone as he does a loose-hipped dance. The near-hysterical roar of the crowd is plainly audible behind the plaintive song.
"Ooooh! I just love Elvis!"
Mara gets the mouse and gives it the merest flick. The famous performer is seen some years later, bloated and pasty faced he fumbles shakily in a bed-side drawer, searching amongst the unsorted rubbish for his barbiturates.
It is hard to understand, from a rational point-of-view why humans crave fame. It seems to destroy so many of the most gifted amongst them. The pathological inflation of the ego-illusion becomes too much for the merely mortal shell. And yet crave it they do. The prudent may say that "the wise man seeks no notoriety" but their counsel is drowned by the crowd singing "there's no thrill that'll getcha..." etcetera.
We should be clear as to the psychological basis of this syndrome. The ego illusion is very dear to them. Nevertheless, since it is in reality a mere phantasm, it is in fact quite hard to maintain and generally requires a tremendous investment of energy. Energy that, needless to say, is not available for anything useful. If this insubstantial ego can be pumped up with external sources of energy, as the adulation of the crowd, then it can be experienced as a net-gain. Of course, it is all still illusory and very dangerous to the individual but it is very intoxicating.
Our resources in this department have been quite limited until quite recently. In antiquity, fame generally meant being well known amongst the inhabitants of one's own city-state, although we could do a bit better with the occasional emperor or what-not. Now however the stakes are much higher. With the invention of technology to transmit images from place to place it has become possible for one individual's features to be globally recognizable.
Together with the technological possibility there has arisen a powerful cult of celebrity. The masses seek to improve their dreary existence by living vicariously through their idols. This is a marvelous system of mutual self-destruction. The common TV addicts are able to escape having a real life of their own, instead remaining trapped in an ersatz astral plane existence. Futile and pathetic, but well-suited to our purposes. And in the not so long term they end by turning on and devouring the former objects of their worship. We win both ways.
Of course, this level of fame is necessarily restricted to the few. But we still have the older antique type of fame that can ensnare many more. This is the desire, which can be inflated to a positive obsession, to be well-known and well-regarded in one's own petty sphere. This is a simple way of stoking the fires of ego. As long as they are concerned about their reputations at work, amongst their friends and associates, then they are still trapped in the idea of themselves as real entities. When Joe hears that everyone says "Joe is the best diesel mechanic in the plant" then Joe is reassured of the reality of the concept "Joe, the diesel mechanic." It works just as well if everyone says, "Joe is the sloppiest excuse for a mechanic we've ever seen."
Generally they define themselves according to the way in which others see them. This is the "persona," the public mask. Becoming obsessed with putting on a good front they can eventually fool themselves and lose track of who they really are. As long as they are looking out they are not within, and the outward direction is our territory.
Further, Praise and Blame are yet another potent source of pleasure and pain. Let me reiterate that these are the carrot and stick by which we drive the donkeys down the garden path. It hardly seems to matter that the objects here are such ephemeral ones. The drive for recognition is a powerful source of craving and stimulates the process of becoming quite as well as more "substantial" rewards.
Praise and Blame are called the worldly winds. They are among our most useful tricks. The fact that they are utterly void of substance is amusing to us, but unapparent to them. Keep these winds gusting, they can blow beings round and round sangsara for a long, long time!
Copyright © 1997 Arrow River Community Center