Anonymity is the new fame

In a world where everyone is known, where our details are stored on countless databases, in which we self-publish the minutiae of our lives, the photographs, the opinions, the curricula vitae, where every move is GPS tracked, every purchase recorded, where Delphic algorithms probe our subconscious and predict our next move, where even our moment of death can be snapped and retweeted around the world, or shared on video…in such a world, who would want fame when we all have it?

We have all been cursed with the fulfilment of that adolescent fantasy… to be famous.

There is an intriguing passage in one of Ouspenky’s books (I can’t remember which) in which he said something to the effect that in order to escape through the net of time, you need to be a nobody. He believed in eternal recurrence – that we are all strapped to the wheel of recurrence, condemned to live and relive the same lives with only minor variations for aeons until some teacher or some happy alignment of the cosmos allows us an oh so narrow and brief escape route. Woe betide us if we fail to recognise it or to pass through it.

But what Ouspensky also said was that to be famous, to be a great historical figure like Caesar or Napoleon is in fact a curse. On such men entire histories narratives and scripts were based. They were like the lead actors in a play, impossible to write out of the script and therefore impossible to escape from the cycle. A bit actor or a walk-on part might be able to leave the stage without anyone noticing. It’s the same with eternal recurrence – the fewer other people, things and events that are contingent on your existence, the easier it will be.

To slip through the net of time, you really want to be a nobody. Those of us who can remain anonymous are the lucky ones.