Fame and the Epiphany Fairies

April 22, 2010

Epiphanies.  They’re supposed to be moments in our lives where we gain some type unrealized clarity.  They’re almost supernatural events that change the path of one’s life.   Of course, I’ve had epiphanies before.  I’m just one of those people that talks myself out of them.

Jesus came to me in a dream one night.  He was dressed like Mighty Mouse. “Get on a plane and go to Berlin,” He said.  “Stop crying you wuss.  You gotta help a German priest defeat Satan. The entire fabric of the Universe depends on it.”  I woke up, cleaned the crap out of my pants, and rationalize the whole thing down.  I convinced myself that Jesus was talking to the guy right behind me in my dream.  That makes sense.

Well, I have had another epiphany.  Although, this time it came to me while I was still conscious.  I was reading the latest Newsweek and came across an article on Herman Wouk.  It was a two-page summary of the man’s life and work.  The brief piece was very reverent about Mr. Wouk, exalting his many legitimately great accomplishments.

So, who the hell is Herman Wouk?

That’s what I said!  The epiphany fairies swirled around my head, entered through my ear canal and settled into my frontal lobe for the remainder of the night.  Those types of fairies are notoriously untidy and when they make your brain their temporary home; they leave a big mess behind.  With hot pink neon spray-paint, they wrote this on the wall of my cerebrum:

“You have no idea who this guy is, and he’s incredibly famous.”

Out of sheer astonishment, I dropped the Newsweek onto a stack of about 33 other Newsweeks that I’ve been “meaning to read.”  Herman Wouk is a best-selling author, a Pulitzer Prize winner; he was even on the cover of Time magazine at one point.  And I’ve never heard of him.  I consider myself well-read (though the editors at Newsweek would disagree) so it occurred to me that I should at least have crossed his path somewhere along the line.  Maybe in Middle School English?  Maybe in some best sellers listing on Amazon.com?  Nope.  Didn’t even ring some distant bell in my head.

Like any good human, I immediately turned my thoughts inward.  I became depressed.  Here’s a guy who through talent and hard work produced (apparently) some absolutely wonderful books on topics spanning from WWII to the Higgs-Boson particle.  He was even a comedy writer, penning jokes for Fred Allen’s radio show in the late 1930’s.  This is a man after my own heart.  Even though I knew nothing about him, I felt some kinship between he and I, even if it probably was just a Venn-Diagram overlap of interests in writing topics.  However, it seemed like he had more drive throughout his life, more gusto, and more talent than I or most people would ever have.  Yet I never even heard of him!

C’mon.  You didn’t either until a few sentences ago.

As I look at the backyard empire that is KonkDaddy.com and my painfully disappointing year of stand-up, I wonder what is the point?   Is it because I want to be famous?  Maybe a little bit.  But I wouldn’t want to be famous in the conventional Sandra Bullock sense.  I’d like to be famous in the way that well…Herman Wouk is famous.  That is to say, people (apparently) really enjoyed the output of my life and (apparently) a good deal of people know who I am.  But I’d still like to go to the mall and try on some jeans without a crowd gathering and people murmuring to each other “Why can’t he button a button-fly?”

Maybe it doesn’t come from a want to be famous.  Maybe it’s just a want not to be forgotten.  I think one of the worst things you can say to someone is “You’re ordinary.”  We have all got this desire to stand out from a crowd, mine is unreasonable though.  Like if I see someone walking around with the same sweater as me, I get really pissed!  I’m like, Yeah, nice sweater.  Too bad I had it first!  You idiot!   For some reason I can’t get it through my head that the Gap’s Spring collection only has a finite amount of casual menswear.  There are bound to be a few people that think an overpriced light blue v-neck sweater might look OK on them too.

Fame depends on memory, on the soft gushy tissue in our skulls that is extremely fragile, susceptible to Alzheimer’s, concussions, and African Brain parasites.  In a culture where almost everyone is “bad with names,” it’s impossible not to be lost in the ongoing shuffle of similar faces attached to brown or black shoes.

Do you know who the most recognizable person in the world is?  The person who anyone from almost any culture can identify?  It’s Superman.  Sure he’s fictional but he’s got red shoes!    Now do you know the name of the actual human who created Superman?  Neither do I!  Whoever it was he probably wore brown shoes.

People don’t know who Rachel Maddow is and she has a TV show.  People don’t recognize the name Mike McReady; he’ll always just be known as that dude who plays guitar for Pearl Jam.  Most people, myself included, can’t even name all the Presidents of the United States.

The desire to be remembered for all eternity is ultimately a fruitless one.  Our universe will eventually collapse in on itself thus eliminating the memory of everything and everyone for all time.  I think that idea is strangely comforting.  It is kind of a Zen like realization.  It doesn’t really matter if I’m remembered by a whole bunch of people, because no matter what, people will forget about you, whether they want to or not.  So why try so hard to be a little bit important to everyone?

There.  That’s my pretentious epiphany.  We don’t need to struggle to become famous, because it won’t work.  So I should just quit that fantasy now, right?  I should let Konkdaddy.com expire and issue a do not resuscitate order for my comedy career, right?

As I said before, I have a way of talking myself out of these epiphanies.  I’m still cleaning up after those damn epiphany fairies (lots of vodka bottles laying around).  And as I scrub the pink spray-paint from my brain, I look down at my feet.

Where can I get some red shoes?

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