On the Plains of Shinar, according to Genesis 11, the people verbalized both their plan and the motivation driving it:
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves..” (v. 4)
It was a quest for fame that compelled them to action. Unfortunately for them, they soon reaped the consequences of their vanity, and in a sad ironic way they reached their goal of lasting notoriety. They aspired to fame; they achieved infamy.
I am breaking no new ground when I suggest that our present culture – perhaps especially our youth culture – may benefit from some reflection about aspiring to fame. While there is nothing inherently wrong with fame, it has been said that fame used to be a by-product of success or achievement, or of some tremendous virtue; but in our media crazy world fame has seemingly become a virtue of it’s own. There is perhaps no better illustration than the proliferation of Reality TV, and the – which has fastly made famous many with no apparent talents, and many with no apparent virtues.
The Wall Street Journal recently offered an interesting reflection on the fleetingness of fame: Famous Today, Forgotten Tomorrow. In this cultural commentary the author recounts the astronomical statures of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, among others, and how each is all but forgotten – virtually unknown to this present generation.
It got me thinking.
While Proverbs 22.1 tells us: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…”, a good name does not necessarily mean a known name. A good name is one that is respected by all who know it – or rather, appreciated by all who know the person who wears the name. Just as fame used to be, a good name is inseparably linked to one’s virtues. And gaining a good name, not a known name, is a noble ambition.