A humble life, dedicated to great purpose?

Last night I watched Stephen Colbert skewer fame, God bless him.  Here’s the clip:

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Everyone loves me, says Colbert. I am known, therefore I am. My life has meaning because everything I do is important, and known by other people. In heaven, everyone’s a celebrity.

Which is, oddly, my idea of hell.

This week J.D. Salinger died, a man who was the antithesis of the celebrity generation.  In a recent appreciation of Salinger by his long-time friend Lillian Ross, I found the following:

The older and crankier he got, the more convinced he was that in the end all writers get pretty much what’s coming to them: the destructive praise and flattery, the killing attention and appreciation. The trouble with all of us, he believed, is that when we were young we never knew anybody who could or would tell us any of the penalties of making it in the world on the usual terms: “I don’t mean just the pretty obvious penalties, I mean the ones that are just about unnoticeable and that do really lasting damage, the kind the world doesn’t even think of as damage.” He talked about how easily writers could become vain, complaining that they got puffed up by the same “authorities” who approved putting monosodium glutamate in baby food.

This morning I stumbled to my computer to find this quote by Paul Brunton waiting for me:  A humble life dedicated to a great purpose, becomes great.

Philosopher and mystic, Paul Brunton

Philosopher and mystic, Paul Brunton

On the back of one of his books, it says this:  Paul Brunton (1898-1981) was a British philosopher, mystic, and traveler. He left a successful journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men, and studied a wide variety of Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. With his entire life dedicated to an inward and spiritual quest, Brunton felt charged with the task of communicating his experiences to others and, as the first person to write accounts of what he learned in the East from a Western perspective, his works had a major influence on the spread of Eastern mysticism to the West.

I can’t help but wonder how the quality of literature, music, film, and life in general might not be improved if what we did in our public lives came solely (soul-ly?) from that sense of being ‘charged,’ or as some might name it, ‘answering a call?’  What if people stopped being interested or obsessed by what some person they don’t know is doing with this particular nano-second in their day, and more concerned with living humbly, in service to great purpose?

I wonder.

The anti-fame movement. Encouraged on this blog. You heard it here first. Snort.  (Yes, I do get the irony, people, but I also think God loves a good belly-laugh.)



  1. lucky 8 on February 6, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I can understand why Salinger withdrew from the barbs and arrows. Similar to his point of view, I also feel that in the end, all people (not just writers) pretty much get what’s coming to them. Fame in and of itself doesn’t feed the soul.

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