Stoic Philosophy: Fame and Popularity

Stoic Philosophy: Fame and Popularity

Which master do you serve: the fleeting approval of the multitude or your own integrity?

You may strive to be honored after your death. When you are dead, however, you will no longer be with the living and all that they say will not be heard by you.

Furthermore, you will not have any control over what the living speak about, even if they decide to speak about you.

If people do talk about you, how soon will their conversations shift from praise and blame to indifference?

Those who do remember you will also die. Their memories will fade with them. Their stories forever lost in time.

Your name may not even be as significant as the greatest humans from generations past who are now less than the whispers on lips.

Every sage and poet, king and slave, every lover and child and warrior and scientist, everyone who was born and breathed in the cool air, everyone from hundreds to thousands of years before, had perished into bones and dirt and shadows. Their lives were so fleeting, here, then gone.

Forgotten in unknown pasts.

Just because someone appears happier by being famous doesn’t mean that they are happy. Appearances of happiness are not happiness.

It is common for people to have a first impression of an event or a person. While the unwise take that impression to be true and make value judgements about it, the wise will use their reason to investigate why they felt a given way and whether their feeling was justified. After they’ve patiently evaluated their initial impression, they will let go of it, and then move on. Those who are unwise will cling to their impressions. They will desire what is external and uncontrollable, such as reputation and fame and power and money.

The wise will be present and focus on who they are and what they can change while the unwise will worry about the past and the future.

Fame is not worthwhile if it causes you to lose your dignity, self-respect, kindness, turning you into a hypocrite, coward, or tyrant.

Praise is a fickle pleasure. Applause is empty of meaning beyond a moment in infinity. Nothing lasts and everything is soon forgotten. Desiring fame is only a tiresome burden.

Don’t fall under the spell of vanity, believing that you are more important than others. If you are convinced of how special you are, then you are seduced away from your reason.

Seek to be a good person rather than seeking to be known as a good person. Everyone is connected as citizens of the world.

When you want to attain a higher social status, people will have power over you. You’ll be enslaved to their approval and disapproval.

Always be indifferent to praise and blame.

When praised, laugh internally at their silly words. When blamed or sneered at, don’t concern yourself with what you cannot control.

Before you talk about being a good person, be a good person. Do not let crowds seduce you away from your discipline, your virtue, your actions. You are responsible for the type of person you are. Master yourself rather than manipulating other people.

Stoic Practice During the Coronavirus

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.”

― Epictetus, Enchiridion and Selections from the Discourses

Our expectations for life is not life itself. We often want for things to be as we wish and avoid things that are not as we wish. Then when things happen against what we desire, we suffer, instead of looking directly at what is.

We must look directly at life.

Then we can act wisely with what we can control.

People will grow old, become sick, die, and lose their material possessions eventually.

Nothing is entirely our own, not even our lives. We are temporary travelers in this universe and will return to the universe after enough time has passed.

Meditate on this everyday.

We shouldn’t hide from facts that are uncomfortable, uncertain, and painful.

We shouldn’t speculate about what we don’t know, anxiously hoping for what exists only in our imaginations, dwelling with regrets about the past.

Let’s be present and learn what we can do.

We shouldn’t reduce ourselves to our judgements. While others gossip, we can remain silent. While opinions are let loose, we can stick to factual information. While people are angry and blame, we can stay patient and look within. While groups hate and form divisions, our hearts can open to the world.

Our attitudes are in our control, even when dealing with the tragedies that befall us.

We become what we regularly consume. If we surround ourselves with fearful people and sensationalized news reports, these sources will impress upon our minds and emotionally weigh us down.

While it’s crucial to be informed, we must care for our wellbeing, and should, when possible, avoid what causes suffering to ourselves and others.

When we must endure negative things, let us do so with dignity and honor, not falling into laziness, hatred, jealousy, anger, and greed.

We must look at what is within our control.

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds (Review)

“Roger that.” — David Goggins

I listened to David Goggins’s audiobook while running in the early mornings, chasing my shadows off trees, hopping across puddles, leaping through mud and leaves and snowy trails, echoing deep in the silent wilderness. Watching my breath, rolling out in the cold, before fading away.

His audiobook chapters follow with an informal conversation between him and Adam Skolnick (podcast/book combination), their laughter and wisdom weaving throughout the original text.

Goggins was raised in darkness. Seeking himself while surviving a childhood of small-town racism, familial abuse, neglect, and the brutal death of his step-father.

To create this book, he needed to return to his past, remembering his vulnerabilities in trauma. His story, on the surface, seems superhuman. An ultra-endurance champion, a survivor of three hell weeks (while duct-taping his broken legs to run), a Navy Seal, a pull-up world record holder. Losing over a hundred pounds in fewer than three months and smashing through Army Ranger school and running long distances with heart defects and stretching through intense adrenal depletion.

He may appear like an outlier, an anomalous champion, but he had suffered for many years before he could reclaim his mind. He had to sink into icy waters that drowned him down into an endless descent — down into a place where only he lived, where only he could escape, gasping, choking to touch the dim light surface of air.

He had to look at himself in the raw truth, willing to do what he hated until he could love his own suffering. Then through that pain, he could find peace. Callusing his mind by grinding through daily challenges, working toward self-mastery. Not shying away from the shadows, which twisted round his past, almost swallowing him whole.

Most people settle into mediocrity. Forever on the sidelines of what they can become. They work to achieve their goals and then they sit back with a sparkly reward, complacent, doing merely what feels suitable enough for passing, for idle praise and rationalized acceptance. Self-satisfied enough to share their accomplishments on social media but their prizes are not much more important than a fleeting pleasure before they fall back into normalcy again.

Goggins believes that one should look squarely at themselves in the “accountability mirror” and penetrate through any rainbow delusions of comfort. People should tell themselves the motherfucking truth and not hide from who they are.

Nothing is ever finished. The reward for hard work is the hard work itself. One must always test their minds fully, grinding through the spit and blood and shit. They must use their time wisely, uncivilized in their raw, rugged pursuit. Creating who they are through self-imposed struggle, challenging their resolve, grappling with what exists beyond the limits of their exhaustion. Becoming more every day until their last breath. Dying whole.