There was quite a response to my recent post on the subject of Fame. It must be a subject that others beside myself have wrestled with. Certainly, a number of comments that were left on the original post made me look again at the whole subject of fame.
I think the trouble within the Pagan community is not so much that we have no one among us who can distinguish between fame and wisdom, as it is that we have not yet, as a religious movement, come up with any cultural norms that show us, as a group, how to figure that out. Because of that, I think many Pagans do have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with fame and popularity—and judging by the sheer number of comments on this post, it looks like I’m not alone in thinking that. As Chris said, “It is far easier to count the number of books published, to calculate the weight of a name you've heard many times in our relatively small lives than it is to recognize wisdom.”
But there is more to our (Pagan) cultural fascination with fame than just collecting autographs. Nettle’s words, for instance spoke to me. She wrote, “I want the famous pagans to like me. It's my grown-up version of wanting the teacher to notice how awesomely smart I am. But, really, it's the BNP's who have written or done something I like and admire that I want to pat me on the head and give me an A+.” On the one hand, I know exactly what Nettle means—I, too, get a giddy, little-girl kick out of being noticed and liked by famous Pagans (writers especially). But on the other hand, I think it’s significant that both of us value that kind of connection from the BNP’s we admire.—the ones we already sense have some depth, in other words.
Partly, I think this reflects the truth I heard Copper Asetemhat Stewart speaking, when he wrote, "neither books nor workshops have been particularly useful to me, but friendships have." For, no matter how much I may get out of a book or a workshop, it has been when I have built a relationship with someone whose wisdom and insights I trust that I have grown the most. On one level, yeah, there's that "inner squee" Nettle describes. Maybe that's there for all of us.
But it's not simply the "foam on the capuccino" (to borrow Chas Clifton's phrase) that is so attractive. I think we probably all hunger for real guidance and feedback from those we think are on the right track. And, you know, I'll be very happy to take a hug from Marshall Massey, if and when we one day meet face to face. Emotional and personal affirmations are important. But I think the affirmation I'll treasure most, in his case, will be that of a friendship with someone who cares about me enough to tell me the truth, and knows enough about Quakers to have truths I may need to be told.
Three hundred and fifty years have given Quakers a head start on traditions of what they call eldering--the nurturing of gifts and talents amid a spiritual community--and it's something more than affirmation, though that can play a role in it. There's also push-back, challenge, and a willingness to see reciprocity and mutuality develop over time. A quality of friendship that centers on doing something important, or understanding something important, fully and well. Together.
I want something like that in the Pagan world. I think my predilection for fame is not so much that I want or need to be taken seriously by every Pagan (or Quaker) that I meet; but I do want to be well known enough that I'll find a readiness to engage with me and with my ideas on the part of the "weighty Pagans" ( for want of a better term) I will meet.
I want my worth to be visible when it counts, when it can lead to connection. I don't actually want to stand on a pedestal, admired by all. But I do want to stand tall enough to make level eye contact with those I admire.
I want friendship. I want peers. And when Thorn writes that I am "already a BNP, at least amongst BNPs," she's hinting around the edges of what I think I'm most deeply looking for: to be visible as a potential peer and friend to those I think are perhaps farther along the path than I am, at least in some ways. To the degree that I am known to BNP's I care about, I'm rightly gratified. And hopefully, I have demonstrated that I am ready for a friendship that has a kind of reciprocity that a student/teacher relationship--let alone a fan-girl/celebrity relationship-- could never offer.
Reciprocity, challenge, friendship, growth. Not what I thought I was writing about when I first formed my ideas in my post.
Thanks again to everyone who commented. As I've written before, one of the things I value most about blogging is the quality of dialog it offers. I feel that I've learned something in this discussion, and that my ideas have grown and changed because of the comments left here (and on other, related posts since I made the original post).
I'm grateful for that. I think that that quality of connection and deepening is perhaps the real lure, underneath my less-mature cravings for celebrity.
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