Stardom

The perks of being mistakenly recognized as a famous actor eventually waned when I recognized real fame.

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I live in Greenwich Village, in a modest apartment that happens to be on a somewhat un-modest block. The west side of this block in particular (the opposite end from mine), has a couple of very fancy buildings on it.



These buildings have a lot of well-to-do people living in them. For several years, one of these people was a movie actor who plays character roles--mostly in comedies--who happens to look like me.



Not too long after this actor moved in, I began to notice something strange. Walking into stores and restaurants around the neighborhood, I would find myself receiving different treatment than I was used to. People brightened upon my entrance, and service was fast--really fast.



Eventually, my wife figured out what was going on. "They think you're somebody else," she said one day, after a waiter at an Italian restaurant around the corner from our apartment explained that there was no charge for the lunch we'd ordered.



After a while, this improved treatment began to wear on me. It was fun, but it was also subtly demoralizing. After all, these waiters, druggists, and dry-cleaning people who seemed so happy to see me weren't really happy to see me at all. They only thought they were.



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The actor eventually moved, and I went back to being treated like a regular customer. But the weird combination of pleasure and discomfort I'd felt during the months when he'd lived there stuck with me.



It wasn't too long after my famous pseudo-twin left my block that I happened to read an essay by C. S. Lewis called "The Weight of Glory." This essay turned out, providentially enough, to be on the subject of fame, or--same difference--"glory."



There is no getting away, Lewis says in this essay, from the fact that glory was an extremely important concept for early Christian writers. In fact, it's one of the chief rewards promised to the faithful.



Lewis confesses that he at first found this idea very distasteful. "Glory," he writes, "suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?"



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