Dateline: TORONTO—Melvin Meister’s Labour of Fame Organization, founded in 1973, has been vindicated over forty years later, as the Oxford English Dictionary added the word “smeelian” to its account of the English language, in recognition of the life’s work of one Mr. Meister’s acolytes, Anita Smeelie.
Considered the philosopher of fame, Mr. Meister founded his organization to convince people to dedicate themselves to a single pursuit throughout their life, however bizarre their preoccupation might be, for the purpose of becoming so personally associated with that practice as to acquire a kind of immortality by compelling the guardians of language to coin a word in their honour.
Mrs. Smeelie spent 38 years wearing unseasonal clothing in Canada. In summer she wore multiple layers of sweaters and coats, and in snowy winter she wore shorts and T-shirts. Crucially, she filmed herself daily to prove her topsy-turvy lifestyle. An anthropologist came upon her archive of films on YouTube and wrote an article about “the smeelian demonstration of liberty, by systematically and steadfastly rejecting the proper response to the environment.”
Mr. Meister explained his philosophy at a press conference. “Fame is silly,” he said, “so you have to be silly to become famous. But what’s even greater than fame is legend. To become a legend, you must devote yourself to an idea, as the movie Batman Begins said. The idea’s merit is inconsequential, since any idea can eventually seem inspired and apt, because circumstances are always changing.
“Think of Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote, whose legend is memorialized with the word ‘quixotic.’ The character became immortal because Cervantes wrote a long book hammering home his point about the silliness of the medieval myth of honour. Cervantes’ only error was that his character outshone him and so he wasted the opportunity to become immortal himself, by living as a real-life Don Quixote.
“By contrast, Giacomo Casanova wrote up his myriad sexual exploits and became personally famous for them, so that his name is synonymous with ‘womanizer.’ Rabelais scored a double victory, since his works compelled fans to speak both of what’s ‘rabelaisian’ and what’s ‘gargantuan,’ since his character Gargantua was so forcefully depicted in his satires.”
Mr. Meister stresses that the fame-seeker’s ideal can be preposterous or embarrassing, as it was in the case of sadism and masochism, practices inspired by the literary works of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
“Duns Scotus only had to be a committed medieval Christian theologian to earn himself the title of ‘dunce’—as in the dunce cap worn by slow-witted students who are sent to the corner of the classroom by the complacent humanist teacher.”
According to Mr. Meister, “social critics are bound to find some obsessive behaviours pertinent when they scrounge for materials to illustrate this or that notion that pops into their head. That’s why I tell my pupils to add their idiosyncrasies to the societal slush pile. If they stay true to their bizarre ideal, steadfastly recording their faithfulness for posterity, one day someone will stumble on the work and coin a word to preserve their essence for all time. That’s the road to real immortality.”
Indeed, Mr. Meister contended that YouTube and the internet at large function as repositories for records of cranks’ life work, the hope being that their videos or writings will one day be relevant and compel others to think of their authors as legendary.
Mr. Meister currently has dozens of long-time pupils, one of whom, Leon Snodgrass, has for twelve years given an “Eskimo kiss” to everything that has ended up in his immediate vicinity.
According to his journal, Mr. Snodgrass once found himself in a garbage dump and commenced to rubbing his nose on every piece of garbage in sight. Despite the repulsive odors, he powered through and successfully “greeted” everything in the dump, because of his “single-minded dedication” to his ideal.
What that ideal is is anyone’s guess, but Mr. Snodgrass hopes that someone someday will guess right, in which case he’ll have won his immortality.
By Tom Murphy VII (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons