Updated: Mar 10
Everyone wants to be rich and famous. Or at least, that’s the impression I’m given through the hundreds of reality TV shows on the air where normal people get their fifteen minutes of fame for doing niche, mundane things. Rich and fame are two powerful adjectives. Having either one or both signifies importance. So in essence, you can say that everyone wants to be important.
When you ask regular folks to name important people, what do you think they will say? George Washington? Martin Luther King Jr? Gandhi? But once you peel back the layers of “politically correct” responses for such a question and judge what people consider important through their actions, it’s easy to see who society considers important. Who is on the mind of your average person at any given time? A movie star? A singer? A football player? It’s easy to see where most of our money goes into: the entertainment industry.
And at its core, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Supply and demand. People want to be entertained, so entertainers entertain, and they get paid. Actors, singers, and athletes get rich and famous, and the executives and professionals who manage them and give them jobs are mostly just rich (though I doubt they’re complaining).
But here is a question I’d like to pose to you today. Why are these people so rich and famous? Could it be because the rest of society is content living their own lives in mediocrity because they can experience exhilaration by following every single thing these important people are doing? Is that why you can get sold out seats to a football game in a 60,000 seat stadium but can hardly fill up a room on voting day for local elections? Is that why newspapers and traditional storytelling are going out of style while tabloids and gossip columns keep getting stronger and more powerful? Is this why some people will obsess more over a royal wedding and the marriage of royalty in another country but neglect their own marriage at home?
Our society has a problem with obsession. Obsessing over all sorts of things, not just celebrities, is pretty common. In a world full of increasing stress and disappointment, it is easy to fall back on something that can give one comfort. For many, it can be food. For others, some sort of hobby. For others, less healthy habits like drugs and alcohol. But one specific sort of obsession that people don’t blink an eye at is celebrity obsessions.
Recently, I’ve noticed the public outcry over casting Ben Affleck as the new Batman in an upcoming Batman and Superman crossover. I’ve noticed an uproar over Miley Cyrus’ performance at the music awards that people would not stop talking about. With college football season almost over, that’s all I’ve been hearing about from fans of their teams, trash talking each other in every chance they get when their teams are set off to face.
I’m not here to get into an argument about political correctness. I’m merely stating that people can sometimes get too involved into the things that they admire. My Facebook feed is filled with people who won’t stop posting about every little thing that any one particular celebrity is doing. Gawking, admiring, obsessing.
If all the time and effort spent into those types of obsessions gets put into one’s own life, could you imagine the possibilities? My question is, how can someone be content living such a plain and simple life while at the same time celebrating the lives of those who live in much more wealth and have much more influence? Many in this world are born, grow up, work a decent-paying job, have kids (maybe), grow old, retire, and die. That’s it. No real lasting impact on the world and they leave about as unknown as they came into this world.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all be drug-induced celebrities that get into scandals and live this shallow perception of fame. But why does not everyone strive to achieve significance in this world? Why doesn’t everyone set their sights on being people like George Washington, Dr. King, and Gandhi? I read this great quote once that said that Mother Teresa and Einstein had just as much time as we do and accomplished great things. What’s our excuse?
I can’t know for certain, but it’s reasonable to assume that important figures throughout history (politicians, scientists, and even celebrities) have striven to earn the significance that they’ve acquired. They set their sights on a really high goal, and they achieved it. What’s there to stop the rest of us from dreaming big? I think the answer for most of us is simple: the work to get there seems too hard and the risk seems too great.
Why try to be important when it’s safer to just live comfortably and follow other important people? And yet, it’s that kind of complacency that allows the rich and famous to become more rich and famous. Predictability. They know that most people will never attempt to reach higher levels of significance than they currently have, and are content with just traditional societal expectations, such as getting a 9-5 job, buying a house, getting a car, filling their house with material possessions they don’t really need, and living a life of debt.
So, I leave you here with the following thoughts:
Instead of obsessing over those football players down on the stadium, strive to be that football player down on the stadium.
Instead of following that famous singer in all of her concert tours and staying up until midnight to buy her latest album, attempt to be that singer who can seduce millions with your powerful lyrics.
Instead of complaining about corrupt politicians and the destruction of America, run for office and attempt to make that change yourself.
It’s true, we don’t all have talent in our specific field of interest. But everyone has a talent somewhere. And just like those famous people you see on TV, you need to take risks. They took a risk, and put their talents to the test. So can you. There’s no guarantee you will make it. In fact, it’s statistically impossible that every single person can become particularly significant, since it would be the equivalent of highlighting everything in your textbook.
But take comfort in the fact that you tried, and continue trying for as long as you live. The most dangerous disease that can affect the human race is complacency. Once we stop trying, there is nothing worth fighting for. Once we give up, we’ve lost. Who knows, you may be the next Einstein, the next Abraham Lincoln, or even the next Taylor Swift. But don’t let your own lack of ambition keep you from reaching that dream. When you are on your death bed and looking back at the kind of life you’ve missed out on, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.