August 22, 2006

Pursuing Fame on a Senior Discount

I found The Fame Motive very interesting because I never understood the desire for fame.  To me, the upside pales against  the downside, the lack of privacy and control,

But the speculation at the end struck me most.  If this need for approval never dies, then turning to a deepening belief in God in one's later years and/or  focusing on leaving a legacy seem to be  eminently positive ways to handle life's disappointments and a hell of a lot better all around than whining about them.

People with an overriding desire to be widely known to strangers are different from those who primarily covet wealth and influence. Their fame-seeking behavior appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance, a longing for the existential reassurance promised by wide renown.

These yearnings can become more acute in life’s later years, as the opportunities for fame dwindle, “but the motive never dies, and when we realize we’re not going to make it in this lifetime, we find some other route: posthumous fame,” said Orville Gilbert Brim, a psychologist who is completing a book called “The Fame Motive.” ...

“It’s like belief in the afterlife in medieval communities, where people couldn’t wait to die and go on to better life,” Dr. Brim said. “That’s how strong it is.”

“It’s a distinct type, people who expect to get meaning out of fame, who believe the only way to have their lives make sense is to be famous,” said Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “We all need to make meaning out of our lives, and this is one way people attempt to do it.”

Therapists and researchers, including Dr. Brim, have traced longing for renown to lingering feelings of rejection or neglect. After all, celebrity is the ultimate high school in-group, writ large. It appears a perfect balm for the sting of social exclusion, or neglect by emotionally or physically absent parents.
The participants in the study who focused on goals tied to others’ approval, like fame, reported significantly higher levels of distress than those interested primarily in self-acceptance and friendship.

Surveys done since then, in communities around the world, suggest the same thing: aiming for a target as elusive as fame, and so dependent on the judgments of others, is psychologically treacherous.

Freud might have agreed: he is said to have fainted only twice in his life, both times when he perceived a threat to his legacy.
In compiling his research, Dr. Brim, 83, thought much about how an intense desire to reach this unknowable, alluring state of being might affect older people’s behavior, if the motive did not fade.

“I concluded that several things could happen, and one of them is to find another source of approval,” he said. “That might be a great love, if you’re lucky. Or perhaps it is a deepening belief in God. But I think many people suffer with realization that they are not going to be famous and there’s nothing they can do to solve it.”

It  brought to mind, The Libidinous Later Years.

This is what consciously formed legacies are about –...the.. fight against our extinction.  We cannot succeed indefinitely at that in a physical sense, but we can through a legacy that extends our beingness beyond the time of the flesh.

Posted by Jill Fallon at August 22, 2006 10:43 PM | TrackBack | Permalink