He had always wanted to be famous. He envisioned himself on radio talk shows and late night TV shows. Being interviewed by Jon Stewart or Terry Gross or Conan O’ Brien or … whoever, really. He’d be sly, funny, witty, humble. Famous enough to be on said shows, but not famous enough that he was an asshole.
He wanted to be famous for creating something beautiful. Something dark and true and resonating. Something to validate his existence. To make the hard times worth living, because others would be there, with him, in the struggle. Whether it be painting or writing or music or film—it didn’t matter. He just wanted to be famous, for something. Have others experience what he experienced. Perhaps it was validation. Perhaps it was pity. Perhaps it was a boyish need to have others accept him for who he was, for others to empathize with just how damn hard living in this world was. But he wanted to be recognized. In fact, he didn’t know if he could go unrecognized.
So he wanted to be famous.
If he were famous, however, he’d criticize fame, the spectacle of it. The American drive or myth that says everyone can be famous. Because we all want to be movie stars and rock stars, and advertisements tell us we can. Perhaps his own drive to be famous was born out of the same mythology. Perhaps this was why he was disappointed. Because he was not a movie star and his life was not like a movie. Because fame is a slippery thing.
He wanted to be famous because that meant making a difference in the world. You could say things people would listen to.
He didn’t want to be extremely famous, like Justin Bieber famous or even B movie star famous. Just famous enough so that people would respect him. Not that they didn’t respect him already. He was a respectable man—but not a famous one.
Fame gives narrative structure to failure. It evokes social empathy. If you’re simply a drug addict, you get little sympathy. If you’re a famous drug addict, you get narrative. People will then weave stories around your childhood, your demons, your fall from grace. And though it might not be pretty, it’s a story, and it’s better than what the bastards no one’s ever heard of get, which is no story. Sure, they have stories. But none worth telling because they’re simply some drunk who went to war or who had mental illness, not some drunk who was so brilliant that he could not deal with his own inherent genius and creativity and depression or manic anxiety or whatever else accompanies greatness. Or maybe there is no greatness, but there is fame. And that alone warrants more story than none. It at least gets people thinking. No one thinks about the drunk at the park. The heroine addict. The kid drinking cough syrup. Their stories are less interesting when they’re not famous. They’re just losers. Fame is the ingredient that makes all things allowed.
As much as he wanted to be okay with a simple life, a life of love and service and small deeds done in patience, he didn’t know if he could be. As if he would feel like a failure if he was never recognized, never given attention or, in his deepest fears, if he never created something worth recognition or attention. He wanted to live simply. But be famous for living simple. He wanted to be famous, but famous for criticizing fame. Anything else would be a diminution of his aspirations, to be known, and yet known for criticizing the known. That’s what he wanted to be known for. His own known knowingness of his known darkness in criticizing the known. Because somehow … that would help.