The Antidote for Our Fame-Sick World
*This blog post is a follow-up to Episode 149 of the Provoke & Inspire Podcast: “Episode 149: I’ll Admit It, I Want to Be Famous but so Do You!"*
To listen to the full episode click here.
Picture by @jackrobertphotography
Several years ago, we were invited to perform at the largest Christian festival in the USA. We were given a desirable time slot on the second biggest stage, and I was excited.
I remember pulling up in our band van and parking in a spot designated for “artists,” before making our way to a trailer designated for “band registration.”
A few minutes later, I had my black “artist pass” proudly dangling from a belt loop on my skinny jeans - I was feeling pretty cool.
I walked around the festival, assuming that everyone I passed thought, “Ooh, he’s an artist.” Then it dawned on me how ridiculous my attitude was, and since then, I’ve named this vibe the “backstage mentality.” Whenever it tries to invade me, I kill it.
A few years later, I had the unique privilege of being an extra on the set of James Cameron’s film, Avatar. It was a memorable four months filled with wild experiences, but there was something unsettling about it too — never in my life had I wrestled so intensely with a spirit of envy.
I was jealous of the other extras who received more prominent positions in scenes. Actors and stuntmen would walk by and I’d think, “I want to be cool like them! How do I become more important around here?”
What came over me during this time was similar to my music festival experience. Put simply, I wanted to stand out, be noticed. I didn’t want to be like everyone else - I wanted to be famous.
Fame is kind of strange. On one hand, it’s easy to see why its by-products are alluring - money, comfort, unique experiences, etc. But there’s something about fame itself that is so seductive and pulls at us from the depths of our souls.
Our hunger for fame is so unrelenting that it powers past the countless warnings offered up by those who’ve achieved it and attest to its failure to satisfy. Celebrities continually warn us that there is no prize at the top of the mountain; nevertheless, we climb on.
So what fuels this hunger?
I recognize two things:
1) A desire to matter
Wanting to be valued and valuable is not a bad thing; it’s a healthy desire. The problem is that most of us are looking for it in the wrong places.
Deep down, we want to be known. This need can only be satisfied in a personal relationship with our Creator. Unfortunately, we are impaired people, living in a sinful world, and when we do not allow God to fulfill our deepest longings, we go looking elsewhere.
Human praise is a natural place to turn, and celebrities are the most vociferously praised people in our culture - ergo our obsession with being famous.
The first step to rejecting the celebrity trap is to be honest about what drives us to pursue it. We need to remind ourselves that only Jesus can satisfy the deepest longest of our hearts.
Human praise is fickle and ultimately fails to satiate our souls.
2) A desire to make a difference
Steve Jobs famously said, “Every person was made to make a dent in the universe.” He was right, and he certainly did make his dent (after all, I’m writing this blog on a MacBook!). His life’s motto perceptively tapped into something embedded in all human beings - a desire for significance.
Who wants to feel as though their life has amounted to nothing - as if their life’s work made no difference?
The universal desire to ‘dent’ our world is not bad; in fact, I think it’s a reflection of being created in the image of God. The problem once again lies in the twisted version of significance that the world gives us.
Our world’s model of success is superficial and backward. It’s mostly based on self-focused qualities like beauty, fitness, or merely being famous for nothing at all.
Less shallow examples include exceptional artistic ability, athletic prowess, or innovative genius - which in and of themselves are not bad, but are still only a shadow of the eternal significance that we so intensely crave.
The example of Jesus epitomizes God's version of significance - a life of poverty, self-sacrifice, and suffering. This is what success looks like — offering yourself in the service of others, laying down your agenda, and giving rather than taking.
This is entirely in contrast to the content that fills our screens and feeds! But perhaps this “lose your life for my sake” version of significance is just the antidote our fame-sick world so desperately needs.