So reads the one-and-only sticky note I have on my virtual desktop. Alt text below.

I have struggled with the notion of fame. When I was a teen, I wanted to be a rock star. I didn’t want it enough, apparently, to actually make it happen. Put another way, I wanted the glamour of being a rock star without the work of becoming a rock star. Eventually, though, the lure of fame in any field faded and by the time I was in my 30’s I was attention-averse and deliberately maintaining a low profile. I’m not at all sure what precipitated the change.

I have, nonetheless, had some brushes with fame. At various times my writing, my work in IT, and my medical career have garnered some attention. It was novel, but not particularly gratifying. In fact, I actually found it a bit disconcerting to walk into a room full of people and have most of them already know who I was, though I had actually met few of them.

When I was in the music biz — where I failed to garner any fame whatsoever, much to the benefit of the music-consuming world at large — I noticed that many of the very best artists got little recognition, while some truly mediocre players got a lot of attention (and money). The unrecognized folks sometimes seemed to be okay with it, sometimes were frustrated. The same held in the writing/publishing business, IT, and medicine. I have always loved to make things work, but not been so happy about being recognized for it. Someone once asked me to create a comic superhero persona for myself, and I came up with “Infrastructure Man.” I’ve been comfortable with my level of fame (or lack thereof) but couldn’t really express it until I ran across this quote:

I don’t want to be a great leader; I want to be a man who goes around with a little oil can and when he sees a breakdown, offers his help. To me, the man who does that is greater than any holy man in saffron-colored robes. The mechanic with the oilcan: that is my ideal in life.
—Baba Amte, social worker and activist (26 Dec 1914-2008)

So that’s it, in a tidy quote. It feels good to have such auspicious company.

(I came to the quote from the A.Word.A.Day mailing list, by Anu Garg. Unless you have no interest in expanding your English vocabulary (really?) or finding pithy aphorisms, it’s worth subscribing.)


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