For the November Bahá’í Blogging Challenge today, a quick post about fame.
Fame has become such a powerful motivation in our society that it is hard to be entirely detached from it. As Bahá’ís what is our relationship with fame, should we wish to be famous for what we do best?
We’ve probably all had the feelings at some point, the desire to be the one receiving the actor of the year award, or the one being recognised for giving an amazing presentation, or the one with the most likes on their Facebook post… the successes that our culture judges people by include recognition and popularity.
Fame exists among Bahá’ís, some individuals could be considered famous within the Bahá’í community, at some level, and of course, there are Bahá’ís who are famous around the world within their fields. If a Bahá’í is famous for being the best is this a bad thing?
As Bahá’ís we see this life as the early stage of a journey toward God, and we are told that fame neither lasts in this world nor helps us on that journey:
“Consider: eminent personages whose fame hath spread all over the world shall, erelong, fade into utter nothingness…”
“Soon will your swiftly-passing days be over, and the fame and riches, the comforts, the joys provided by this rubbish-heap, the world, will be gone without a trace.”
In the very end, fame is irrelevant. A recognition of the equality of the human race identifies us all as a valued part of society, similar to the various parts of a human body. We may hear great words from a person’s mouth but every part of that being has been involved in the journey that led to those words being said in that place. So it is with our roles in society. Of a necessity some people will be more noticeable than others, some will be seen as the best in their fields, and others will be part of the framework that supports the developments that these more prominent individuals are identified with.
Our concern should not be with how famous we are, but with what we are doing with our lives. A life of endeavour to become famous, rather than a life in which one became famous because of their endeavours, might ultimately be a wasted life:
“Some men’s lives are solely occupied with the things of this world; their minds are so circumscribed by exterior manners and traditional interests that they are blind to any other realm of existence, to the spiritual significance of all things! They think and dream of earthly fame, of material progress. Sensuous delights and comfortable surroundings bound their horizon, their highest ambitions centre in successes of worldly conditions and circumstances! They curb not their lower propensities; they eat, drink, and sleep! Like the animal, they have no thought beyond their own physical well-being. It is true that these necessities must be despatched. Life is a load which must be carried on while we are on earth, but the cares of the lower things of life should not be allowed to monopolize all the thoughts and aspirations of a human being. The heart’s ambitions should ascend to a more glorious goal, mental activity should rise to higher levels! Men should hold in their souls the vision of celestial perfection, and there prepare a dwelling-place for the inexhaustible bounty of the Divine Spirit.”
“Beware lest ye cling unto that which ye possess, or take pride in your fame and renown. That which behoveth you is to wholly detach yourselves from all that is in the heavens and on the earth.”
We can choose to strive for worldly glory or everlasting glory, and while the latter is less tempting it is much better for us and achievable for everybody.
“O thou who art attracted to the Kingdom of God! Every soul seeketh an object and cherisheth a desire, and day and night striveth to attain his aim. One craveth riches, another thirsteth for glory and still another yearneth for fame, for art, for prosperity and the like. Yet finally all are doomed to loss and disappointment. One and all they leave behind them all that is theirs and empty-handed hasten to the realm beyond, and all their labours shall be in vain. To dust they shall all return, denuded, depressed, disheartened and in utter despair.
“But, praised be the Lord, thou art engaged in that which secureth for thee a gain that shall eternally endure; and that is naught but thine attraction to the Kingdom of God, thy faith, and thy knowledge, the enlightenment of thine heart, and thine earnest endeavour to promote the Divine Teachings.
“Verily this gift is imperishable and this wealth is a treasure from on high!”
We have a clear choice in the way we approach the world around us, the way we relate to social media, to our professions, to our artistic endeavours and to our dreams. Do we endeavour to show the world the greatness of what we can personally do, or the greatness of what God can do? Do we endeavour to have the world increasingly love us, or increasingly love God? Do we endeavour to ensure that the whole world will remember our name, or remember God’s name?
“O SON OF SPIRIT!
“There is no peace for thee save by renouncing thyself and turning unto Me; for it behooveth thee to glory in My name, not in thine own; to put thy trust in Me and not in thyself, since I desire to be loved alone and above all that is.”
Just how good is the latter choice? I’ll end with a fuller quote from which I shared a sentence above:
“Consider: eminent personages whose fame hath spread all over the world shall, erelong, fade into utter nothingness as the result of their deprivation of this heavenly bounty; no name and no fame shall they leave behind, and of them no fruit and trace shall survive. But as the effulgences of the Sun of Truth have dawned forth upon you and ye have attained everlasting life, ye shall shine and sparkle forevermore from the horizon of existence.”
So, don’t worry about being the one in the limelight, be the one that shines and sparkles forever!