This phenomenon of “fame and fortune” is often the theme of stories, both fact and fiction. Scott F. Fitzgerald was such a writer. His first novel, which shares some of the insights from his years at Princeton, tells the story about a young man’s journey for desire, even craving, for love and success in his career. The book was successful, but it was a later book for which he is even more well-known: The Great Gatsby, a book often required for College English classes.
Fame and fortune, however, can have its downfalls. There are stories all over the news regularly about movie stars, with celebrity status, who are bankrupt, caught up in drugs, alcohol and other illegal escapades. There are others who hit the lottery, and stories arise from that kind of quick fortune, as well, because people spend extravagantly, buying expensive material goods and ultimately are in debt beyond what they were before they hit big!
Even Fitzgerald had problems with alcoholism and struggles to cope, as his wife fought a mental illness, despite his success of the critically acclaimed book, The Great Gatsby about material success. The question arises, then, what is the worth of material success, and is the price greater than the rewards?
While fame and fortune aren’t necessarily bad things, it often comes down to perspective. Having the funds to do what you’d like on a whim, or buy what you want just because you want it, is obviously helpful when perceived from the other side, of not having enough money to even pay for necessary expenses like food, medicine, clothes, gas for the car and rent.
I watched a show recently where a poor youth from the inner city was overwhelmed by the “wealth” of the family who lived off the land. In the eyes of the youth, "the farmers" lived in a fine house, had a garden for vegetables and had the “wild” around them to hunt for meat. The youth's perception of their “wealth” was skewed because his own perception was based on a lifestyle of stealing food to eat and living in a rat infested apartment. While "the farmers" equated “wealth” with money, which was very scarce, and felt themselves poor, they had an intense feeling of family and love.
Perspective on material goods is essential when evaluating happiness, even fame and fortune. Sometimes having nothing; being flat broke but having a heart filled with love for everyone around you, can be less stressful than being very wealthy and in the lime light. That sounds like an oxymoron, but happiness cannot be bought. It matters not what material goods you own, if you don’t have happiness and love in your life. All those “things” are just things! They certainly can’t hug you when you are sad or lonely, and offer no comfort or understanding when feeling left out and depressed.
I challenge you to reflect on your material goods and your “social standing.” Where do you place yourself on the scale? Do you put all or most of your effort attaining “things” or is your focus in your faith, family and friends? Where are you finding your happiness? It is temporary (material) or are your forging deep commitments that will last a lifetime?