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 Philosophy: Epictetus on Control
Epictetus was born as a slave in Ancient Greece. He became a prominent Stoic philosopher during the Roman Imperial Period, later influencing such people as Marcus Aurelius. Although he never wrote his teachings down, his pupil, Arrian, did.
His main works are the Enchiridion and the Discourses.
Some things are in our control while other things are not. We should focus on what is in our control.
Our desires and aversions, how we choose to think and act, our pursuits and goals and preferences, are in our control (to a degree).
What is not in our control are the bodies that we are born with, our reputation, old age, illness, and death.
When we try to control the things that are not in our control, we will suffer. We must look directly at what we can control and not burden ourselves with what is not in our control.
Our expectations are not life. We must mentally prepare for adversities while being content with what we have, not wishing for what we cannot control.
Other people’s opinions are their own. Instead of manipulating what they think about us, we should work on mastering our own virtue.
Let’s look at what is within our power and act wisely rather than looking at another person for our worth.
We are all born with different abilities, privileges, struggles. Instead of judging ourselves, let’s act out our roles with dignity.
While we didn’t choose to be born or to be placed under certain circumstances, we can choose our own attitudes and ideas and actions.
We should demonstrate our philosophy through how we live. Our true master is within us first.
We should never sacrifice our humanity for the fleeting approval of others.
It is easy to be seduced by what is external and uncontrollable, but in doing so, we may risk our own integrity.
If we compromise who we are for long enough, we may lose who we are forever.
Every difficulty is a question.
We must answer with how we live.
Spend time with those who help us to grow and avoid those who diminish us. Endure those who insult us with humor, humility, and kindness.
We don’t need to explain who we are to those who refuse to understand us. We only need to focus on what’s in our power, letting go of opinions and speculation and gossip.
We don’t need to talk about ourselves like we are important. There is no need for us to boast or blame. We can remain quiet, but when speaking, speak objectively.
Review what has happened at the end of each day. Investigate what we have done well and poorly. We can cultivate habits that are virtuous while remaining compassionate toward our mistakes.