(What’s in your toothpaste? Why should we remember David Crosby? Whose buried on our farm? How many statues of Lenin are there in Moscow?)
Have you ever brushed your teeth with Colgate’s “Total” toothpaste? The one with the nice minty smell? Every peppermint harvest here on the farm I remember how the Colgate-Palmolive company bought our peppermint oil, the oil we distilled from our peppermint crop. They used it in their Total brand toothpaste. I think it’s our biggest claim to fame. What’s yours? Did you win a jackpot at Jackpot, Nevada? Are you the aunt of an almost-famous singer? The brother of a championship athlete? Maybe the local newspaper wrote about your incredible lab that was lost at Wild Willy hot springs but found its way home, 500 miles north to Boise, Idaho.
Almost everyone has their 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame: their picture framed as employee-of-the-month or their name listed as a donor for an important cause. They even might write a blog that some people like to read. It’s heady. It’s intoxicating. It’s very short-lived.
One time I had to rent the old movie, Rudy, about a Notre Dame football star, because my brother Dan was in the film. He’d responded to a casting call for movie extras, and got a part. Dan played a security guard at a Notre Dame game. I sat through most of Rudy waiting to see my brother, the movie star. Finally, near the end, I got a brief glimpse of Dan’s face as the camera panned the crowd in the football stadium.
Some people want more than 15 minutes of fame though. They want to not only be known, but remembered. I thought about the “Emily Doe” who was a victim of rape four years ago. Last month she published a book about her horrific experience, using her real name, Chanel Miller, as the author, and titling it: Know My Name. And then there’s David Crosby, the folk-rock musician, whose biopic this past summer was entitled: Remember My Name. Why, I asked myself, should we remember David Crosby? I mean I liked his music, but he’s not Jesus Christ. He’s not even Elvis Presley.
Being a ruler or a monarch doesn’t necessarily gain you lasting fame either. Only a select number of world leaders manage to make it into our history books—and some of those may not deserve all the attention they get. We only know about King Tut because of the way he was buried. A minor ruler, King Tut is celebrated largely because of his golden image sculpted on the surface of his magnificent burial sarcophagus. Somewhere on our farm a pioneer man or woman are supposed to be buried whose accomplishments likely far surpassed King Tut’s. We know for sure they endured the danger and hardship of crossing the Oregon Trail so they could find a better life for themselves and their families.
Often dictators and authoritarian rulers attempt to extend their fame, their time in the public eye, for as long as they can. They want to cement their power.
The Hitlers, the Lenins, and the Maos made sure their names, their images, and their words were everywhere. The result being that today, there are 80 Lenin statues in Moscow, alone. In China, Mao’s image is plastered on walls and billboards everywhere. If these autocratic leaders were alive now, no doubt they’d have their names emblazoned at the top of casinos and towers. They’d be tweeting feverishly every day, sending messages out to their followers.
But fame is fleeting—and that’s a comforting thought.
Some people can be in the spotlight too long. They can overstay their welcome. Fame, by its very nature, is bright and brief. Our attention spans are short, and besides, there are many others waiting in the wings with new thoughts and other stories, better stories, to tell.
(Click on this link for more Diana Hooley blogs on Current Events.)