Making a ‘Great Name’ for Oneself: Part 1
July 11, 2022
As shown in link, George Benson, long known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is still going strong at 79..
This news did not sit well with all.
“You would think at this age he would put Jehovah first. Instead his career still going....still working hard on his career,” said Aubree. “Older people like this could set the right example.”
Tom: At Prince’s funeral, one of the congregation’s pioneers told reporters, (I included the quote in the Prince chapter of Tom Irregardless & Me) “I was just standing there and all of a sudden, in he walks. I thought, ‘He just wants to be treated like an average person,’ so I just kind of acknowledged him, and he came in and sat down.” She added: “I think he wanted to be private and my observation is: he had to have his creative outlet. Maybe he just needed it to survive.”
He wanted to be treated like an average person. But people do what they need to survive. I’m not sure that he’s not ‘putting Jehovah first.’ We can expend too much energy pounding square pegs into round holes.
Aubree didn’t give up:
“When one is famous and has a lot of income coming in from royalties.... one can cut your life-style and put Jehovah first….There are many brothers and sisters who have left lucrative political careers, football careers, ballet careers, singing careers, acting careers and other careers for which they have natural talent and have all the necessary skills - to put Jehovah first in their life.”
Tom: I would not assume that he is not. Time was when coming across someone like him we would say that he has his own special territory, one that others will find hard to reach. As to income, who is to say he does not put it to very good use? The angels may sing out, “Another nickel from Harley!” at the end of the month, but it is perhaps guys like Benson who provide much of the practical fuel.
“I do not share the same sentiment.…I have a nasty suspicion it is the ego that remains involved.... the need of achieving something and still be admired by the people!”
On the other hand, “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” Do these ones all grovel around in sackcloth? These days ordinary publishers are given counsel not to let spiritual gifts go to their head. Why conclude just from his work that he has an inflated ego? If he does, he has plenty of company in others who have yet to separate their own egos from bringing their gifts to the altar.
In the mid-seventies, rumors swirled that Glen Campbell had become a Witness. The rumors were untrue. He hadn’t. However, one of his band members had and proceeded to talk Bible so much that an exasperated Glen forbade all discussion of religion during working hours. Who is to say that George is not doing the same before people who cannot tell him to shut up? He’s to quit this gig in order to write letters? Given the restricted forms of ministry available today, it’s even more understandable he would choose to continue what he does.
Aubree still doesn’t back down. She seldom does. It’s the prerogative of we old people who have seen a lot and think we have something to say, who see young people chomping down on cotton candy, imagining it substantial, and would warn them that it’s not. And it certainly is true that those who ‘reach for the stars’ come to spiritual ruin far more often than not. So I will tell her a story that spins things her way.
The story was told at LeRoy’s funeral that he, as a young black man in the Deep South, was invited to play along as one of B.B. King’s band members. His son confirmed it. He declined the offer, on the basis of family and spirituality. Instead, he went on to make his living on the railroad. He came up from the South in his later years to my neck of the woods. For a time we served together on the same body of elders. He was outspoken, even occasionally outrageous in things he would say, but always genuine and universally appreciated. In time, he stepped down as an elder. I even helped persuade him that it would be a good thing, that he had done it all, and should go out ‘on top,’ not when his faculties were starting to decline and people would start to say bad things about him. He was true to the faith till his death and would frequently get together and jam with brothers young enough to be his grandsons.
I used to tell him that, should I die before him, I wanted him to give my funeral talk. What a trip that would be! “Hee hee hee,” I could picture him rumbling in his deep roguish and jocular voice, “that Tom Harley was a good ol boy, but he’s deead now, D-E-A-D!”
I don’t know. Maybe George is being a bad boy. There he is posted with a ‘Look! A celebrity! And he’s one of ours!’ type of admiration. Is it really so that having celebrities onboard somehow buttresses your cause? Some of the silliest people on earth are celebrities—all of them, really, except our guys, and we only have a handful. Serena doesn’t even count, because it doesn’t appear she was ever baptized and she has gone on record saying (now that she has a daughter) she means to get serious about the faith she was raised in. We shall see what comes to pass. I have a chapter in TrueTom vs the Apostates on the brouhaha surrounding that statement of hers..
No, I suppose George is not the one to emulate. But don’t we do damage when we become too insistent that everyone must be ‘an example?’ Leave the fellow in peace and appreciate him for what gifts he has. Here we put the constantly repeated, ‘Do not compare yourself with one another’ counsel in a setting that we usually don’t put it in, though it applies nonetheless. Alas it is human nature that we will do exactly that.
Growing up, I took one of those psychological tests in which you answer all sorts of nosy questions and are rewarded with indications of what vocation you are best suited for. Being raised in a suburban and non-Witness home, I imagined results would point me to some nice secure field, the sort in keeping with the saying then in vogue, “To get a good job, get a good education.” My dad, raised on the farm, used the GI bill to put himself through engineering school after WWII and took a job with the local utility. He figured that since everyone requires heat and electricity, no job could be more secure. People raised during the Depression came to highly value security.
Instead of similar recommendations, results were that I should be A) a music performer, or (slightly lower priority, but still head and shoulders above anything else) B) a youth counselor. I’ve never done either of those things, but I have come close enough to satisfy both urges. Public speaking (and now blogging) is not so different than music performing. Shepherding (and now writing) is not so different than youth counseling.
So I have a thing for creative people. And I don’t like to see them dismissed as ones ‘trying to make a name for themselves.’ or persons incessantly in quest of satisfying their ‘big egos.’ That doesn’t have to be the case, though it can be.
Workers could be crude at the power company, though my dad was not one of them. “I just wasn’t prepared,” said one brother who started working there as a young man, “for one of those guys to grab me from behind and another pull my pants down,” a common hazing of new employees. He came to know my dad, as he was sometimes assigned to the nuclear plant where my dad had been promoted. Nuclear technology was then brand new. This plant was among the first in the country. Tour guides would lead visitors through the plant. By prior agreement, an employee would walk by staggering and drooling, muttering nonsense. “Don’t mind him,” the guide would say. “He’s one of the earliest here and absorbed a little too much radiation.”
Another story this new employee told, our brother who is now retired, was of visiting laborers being advised that invisible radiation hangs around at the 3 foot level, but if you stay below that, you’re okay. They would walk about and work all day, even carrying heavy gear, in a crouched over position.
Here were jokesters satisfying their ‘big egos,’ though perhaps not making ‘a great name for themselves.’ Or maybe they were. Our brother remembers these donkeys decades later as though it were yesterday.
****** The bookstore