Sometimes people mistake fame for popularity. Though the two seem to be identical, there is a huge difference between the two. Fame is lasting while popularity is transitory. Many more people achieve popularity while fame is reserved for the greatest.
Popularity brings fame, no doubt, but that fame is transitory in the sense that it is confined to a much smaller circle. It has inbuilt limitations ranging from geographic to periodic, from educational to creative, from scientific to curative and from productive to destructive.
Geographic popularity is one of the most easily attainable. By being an outstanding contributor to a local cause, any positive cause, one can become popular: a grade level student can be popular in his class, in his school or even within the entire school board. The same can be true for a local leader whether political, industrial or religious.
Most successful businessmen become popular, even without actually seeking any popularity. They take a leadership position when it comes to a local cause, a local charity, a fund-raiser or a major community event where an immediate involvement of financial contribution is involved. These entrepreneurs generally come to the forefront and give something back to the community, as a goodwill gesture. It is not their one-time contribution but the overwhelming commitment to a given cause, by way of continued support that brings them popularity.
Same way, a devoted volunteer gains popularity as well, even though he or she did not contribute anything financially. Just by giving his/her time for a cause, the volunteer establishes a commitment to the cause. The resulting reliability factor helps generate popularity for this person. The society gets to see this person at the forefront of its events and sincerely acknowledges his/her contribution. This way, the volunteer becomes popular as well. But does this popularity equate with fame in way or form? I will let you decide.
Periodic popularity is the result of an outstanding performance and/or act by an individual at a particular time or for a particular cause, whether it is local, national or international. Sometimes, an act of instant heroism brings the common man to the pinnacle of popularity. However, more often than not, such heroic acts fade away from within a short period of time. There have been innumerable heroic deeds performed by the simple, down-to-earth persons the world over, almost on a daily basis, but does anyone ever remember their names and/or faces after a year, a month or even a week? Such popularity may make you very proud of yourself but it does not make you famous enough to be known by the human race at a global level, over a prolonged period of time.
Educational popularity is short-lived in its own peculiar form. We see it almost all over the globe, on a continuing basis, some of the outstanding teachers and professors who have given away their lives to the cause of educating the poor and/or the underprivileged, sometimes at a great personal cost.
Some of the finest teachers this world has ever known died in pitiable conditions. Their names do not even ring a bell in the minds of some of their own students and/or disciples. On the other hand, the creative form of popularity springs from one’s own efforts in making other peoples’ lives a bit more comfortable and/or enjoyable.
There has never been any dearth of visual artists, performers, cinematographers, painters, inventors, designers, architects, builders and so on and so forth. But does this world remember them all? Not that I know of! Most of them have had their own ‘claim to fame’ but that’s all they could ever get. However, we cannot deny or ever denigrate the fame earned by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Shakespeare or Mahatma Gandhi. Their fame lives on, even after centuries and there is hardly any soul on this earth who does not recognize their names.
Popularity in the field of science has become so transitory that most of the developments, in today’s fast-paced world go almost unnoticed. We are very familiar with the invention of robots that can perform the majority of industrial functions in the manufacturing sector, almost to the ‘T’, without ever asking for a break and/or a raise. How many people are actually aware of the inventor of the very first robot, not many I guess!
The latest news on this particular front is the development of sensory perception in these very robots whereby they can actually ‘feel’ whatever they touch and can also act in a judicious fashion, if the situation so demands.
On the other hand, the curative achievements have also brought an immense amount of popularity to the leaders in their own field of growth e.g. Mm Marie Curie, the only woman who won the Nobel Prize twice. Her individual contribution to the discovery of Polonium and Radium has been almost forgotten by the public at large. On the other hand, the fame acquired by Mother Teresa is known all over the world so much so that she is being canonized for eventual sainthood.
Constructive and destructive fields have also had their own share of popularity, and to some degree, eventual fame even. But it does not mean that all perpetual fame is reserved for any of these groups in particular.
President Kennedy’s call for landing a man on the surface of the moon and then to safely bring him back as well, even that too within the decade, has been acclaimed by one and all but not many people remember his call for this to actually materialize in true form. He fulfilled his promise although he did not live to see the day for himself. His dream does live on.
On the other hand, the inventor of dynamite, the single most destructive force ever invented by any human, still lives on and shall continue to do so with his hugely sought after and globally respected philanthropic gift of the ‘Nobel’ prize.
Every single human that continues to live on in our memory, over the last so many centuries, owes his/her stature to one essential trait that we can sum up as PERSISTENCE.
This is how they live on and shall continue to do so forever and a day!