“Fame is a vapour, popularity is an accident, riches take wings; only one thing endures and that is character.” Horace Greely, the founder and editor of the New-York Tribune, beautifully encompassed the bond between fame and money to tell us that fame is but a minor step in an otherwise steep climb towards the ultimate goal of success and wealth and prosperity, for fame is proof that people are gullible.
But why are we blinded by our desire for this wealth? Is fame the last step or is there a peak much beyond our perception? Why does fame lead so many of us down a path of foolishness, eventually leading to a disastrous end to an otherwise bright future?
Wealth could be an abundance of money or monetary assets and is thus considered a material gain in one’s life. While being wealthy could mean having a lot of money and property, it is considered an aspect of prosperity. Prosperity is an abundance of material possessions, money as well as other factors like health and happiness. However, contrary to popular belief, being prosperous doesn’t only require lots of wealth, but also a lot of friends, family and a healthy life.
To prosper means to flourish, and enjoy a vigorous and healthy life, physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. Thus, although wealth is an element in prosperity, material wealth does not necessarily indicate a happy and fulfilled life, and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Many times in one’s life, the expensive material things we enjoy and surround ourselves with simply mask a void and craving for acceptance, recognition and identity which Maslow had described as basic human needs. So, while one may have lots of money and fame, they may still be filled with emptiness, restlessness and boredom. The members of the 27 Club are prime examples of people who fell into this trap.
The 27 Club comprised young, talented artists and visionaries of a generation who took the dark path and ended their lives, having just experienced fame and success, showing the world how wealth and prosperity have a positive and negative impact on all of us. The 27 Club, famously called the Forever 27 Club for the movements they individually created in their fans’ lives, is a list of popular musicians, artists or actors who tragically died at the ripe age of twenty seven, often due to substance and alcohol abuse, or violent deaths such as homicide, suicide, or car crashes. These deaths, led to the belief that deaths are more common when fame and wealth become realized dreams. However, the term “Forever 27 Club” was not coined to refer to the list of musicians who died at the age of 27 until after the mysterious suicide of Kurt Cobain, after which there has been much focus in the media surrounding the “27” death phenomenon. The death of Amy Winehouse once again drew the focus back on the 27 club.
The Forever Club had generated a wave of followers who dedicated their lives to finding out what actually happened to their beloved stars. The club has been repeatedly cited in music magazines, journals and the daily press. Several exhibitions had been held in honour of them. These fans continue to remain devoted to their ideas and work, as well as dedicating novels, films and stage plays in memory of them.
But these very fans and followers also tend to go beyond a mere craze to develop conspiracies on what lead to their death. There have been many different theories and speculations about the causes of such early deaths and their possible connections. The Kurt Cobain biographer found that while humans die regularly at all ages; there is a statistical spike for musicians who die at 27. A study conducted by the general medicine journal, BMJ, in 2011, concluded that young adult musicians have a higher death rate than the rest of the young adult population stating that fame may have led to an increased risk of death among these musicians. But, with no study proving that it was restricted to a particular age, the journal noted that this risk is not limited to age 27.
But, with the death of Cobain, rock fans began connecting his age to that of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix, all members of the club. The impact that these four left seemed to be a remarkable desire to know why, when it was notable to fans in the early 1970s when those four visionaries died within just two years of each other. While substance abuse was the cause of death of such a legendary musician, it was clear that the success had gotten to him and his drive to climb higher and higher threw him off the cliff, as he sacrificed his family’s happiness, his own health and his general peace of mind for the spotlight. His struggle for materialistic wealth and prosperity had a disastrous end for him, as he saw no end to the greed his fame had created. Sadly, he wasn’t the only ‘death by wealth’ story as there are other renowned members of the 27 Club like — Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Robert Johnson who were all talented emblems of a generation of music and movies, but seemed to pay a very heavy price for early wealth or fame.
It is very clear from the stories that when a legend, a mere average person or family or even a government, a nation, its leaders or an entire civilization, grows powerful and rich, they are inevitably exposed to temptations and greed for more monetary and materialistic wealth, which leads to leisure and opportunity that eventually brings danger, disaster or even death.
Wealth isn’t the devil. But, just as every coin has two sides to it, success can deceive you if you don’t stay grounded. Fame and wealth don’t fulfil you– they simply provide temporary warmth. As Edward Lytton once said, “Happy is the man who hath never known what it is to taste of fame; to have it is a purgatory, to want it is a Hell”.
Wealth itself doesn’t lead us to a life of depression, or sacrifice. Our inner greed and the desire to struggle for more when we have everything in life– our heath, our family’s happiness and our inner peace, truly ruins our spirit of humanity and self-worth.
One important lesson to be learned from the tragic stories of the members of the 27 Club is that a lot of us dream big and then go too hard on ourselves at an early stage in life, which is when we begin to lose track of the real joys of life. The true joys of life come from inner happiness and the values we cherish, which bring us prosperity. There is no success greater than that of living a happy life.
While it is easy to preach, one must understand that a job may require for a person to work for long hours, and sometimes leave no margins for leisure or self-reflection in a busy schedule. However, there’s a solution to that too and it simply lies in one’s ability to work the smart way.
Excessive pressure to achieve more and more might make one lose one’s way, pushing them to find recourse in illicit substances like drugs and alcohol. But these habits, in the long run, simply add to the stress and lead to a complete loss of one’s true self. Youths need to learn to manage time properly and make sure that they dedicate a certain amount of time to work and the rest to enjoying the true pleasures of life that encourage inner peace and a natural high. We must look to live a life of happiness.
If you aren’t truly happy in life, the chances are that you’ve been so engrossed in chasing success, fame and money, that you’ve been missing out on the best parts of life– the genuine wealth of life, our friends and family.
-Contributed by Dylan Sharma
Picture Credits: factslegend.org