Famous and Forgotten

Shooting Star

On the Plains of Shinar, according to Genesis 11, the people verbalized both their plan and the motivation driving it:

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves..” (v. 4)

It was a quest for fame that compelled them to action.  Unfortunately for them, they soon reaped the consequences of their vanity, and in a sad ironic way they reached their goal of lasting notoriety.  They aspired to fame; they achieved infamy.

I am breaking no new ground when I suggest that our present culture – perhaps especially our youth culture – may benefit from some reflection about aspiring to fame.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with fame, it has been said that fame used to be a by-product of success or achievement, or of some tremendous virtue; but in our media crazy world fame has seemingly become a virtue of it’s own.  There is perhaps no better illustration than the proliferation of Reality TV, and the – which has fastly made famous many with no apparent talents, and many with no apparent virtues.

The Wall Street Journal recently offered an interesting reflection on the fleetingness of fame: Famous Today, Forgotten Tomorrow.  In this cultural commentary the author recounts the astronomical statures of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, among others, and how each is all but forgotten – virtually unknown to this present generation.

It got me thinking.

While Proverbs 22.1 tells us: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…”, a good name does not necessarily mean a known name.  A good name is one that is respected by all who know it – or rather, appreciated by all who know the person who wears the name.  Just as fame used to be, a good name is inseparably linked to one’s virtues.  And gaining a good name, not a known name, is a noble ambition.

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