greatness

Reflections, Self development, Stoic advice

The dramatic age


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We live in the era of the fabulous, have you noticed?

Open Instagram and see for yourself. Everyone is having a blast, Red Bull guys doing humanely impossible feats anyone hardly imagine himself doing. Marriages, parties, traveling, and smiling faces everywhere you look. It’s just marvelous, stupendous, glorious.

But not just that, look at the news, they are just as entertaining. The world is moving so quick! Everything seems like a movie right now, so dramatic. It’s really hard not to lose yourself in all these drama play of the fabulous.

And then, there is your life. Feels, weirdly, too normal in comparison to the fabulous lives doesn’t it? Too Quotidian.

“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

With all these buzz going around, it’s hard to stop for a moment and think about your life and who do you want to be in it. We are too distracted.

Ironically, stopping and reflecting about your life is, arguably, one the most important and frequent attentions you have to put in it.

With so many stupendous ways of life being portrayed at you 24/7. It’s hard stop for a moment and think about the things that truly matter to you, not to the dumb masses.

It’s relatively easy to just believe that you want the same things everyone else wants, but deep down, you know this is not true.

Say, would you like to be as extreme as one of the Red Bull guys, but, if you really want that, you have to be aware that the probabilities of dying prematurely are quite high in that career. It’s too easy to see the glory, happiness and amazement in everything. You don’t see however, the struggle and the hardships, which are the things that make anything possible. All of those are not shown on Instagram or Facebook.

More than asking, what do I want out of life, you should ask:

What am I willing to suffer for?

What things are so damn important to me, that I’m really willing to put in the hours, face the inevitable failures and still have the will to keep going?

Those are the questions that are going to give you the chance of actually being something worthy.

But we are too busy daydreaming about the too-easy-to-want-lives of Instagram stars. Too busy to reflect on what you really want for yourself. And if you keep doing this daydreaming long enough, you will end up not really knowing what you want.

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” 
― Seneca the Younger

The oldest advice on earth, know thyself. But how the hell are you going to know yourself if you are more worried about other people than you?

The era of the dramatic

Everything seems to happen in one big, dramatic event. Just like in Hollywood. We are all waiting for the next candidate to step into power and change everything as soon as he gets elected, or at least that’s what they promise (because that is what we want to hear). Or meeting the love of your life one evening and falling in love forever or maybe jumping from an airplane to save the entire world from destruction. One choice, that’s it.

See, that is the problem with Hollywood. A movie has 2 hours or 3 tops to show everything it needs to show. You cannot see years in the movie, you don’t see the day to day life, you don’t see people going to take a pee every now and then, or sitting at their desk’s working for hours on end. Everything is dramatic, it’s always one big thing that changes everything.

I don’t think I have to tell you that that is not real life.

Back in the real world. We wake up, go to the restroom go through our daily routines and end the day, almost every day, with nothing terribly dramatic happening.

Movies are great, I certainly enjoy watching a good movie but the problem begins when you start thinking about your life like how you think about movies. Waiting for some dramatic change to happen.

The reality is that in real life, nothing happens dramatically, nothings happens if you don’t make it happen, absolutely nothing, nada, zero. Life just keeps going without you really participating in it.

But becoming someone you consciously choose to be and acting upon it? Ah, now we are talking, that’s truly worthwhile, but, as Seneca so well put it:

“Non est ad astra mollis e terris via” – “There is no easy way from the earth to the stars” 
― Seneca

Change takes time, lots of it. This reminds me of the tale of the two frogs.

One day, two frogs where humping around when they saw a farm and decided to go exploring. When they got there, they encountered a bucket that smelled great. They decided to get inside of it too see it for themselves. This brother-frogs where milk-lovers and the bucket was full of it! Drinking as much as they could they were now full and sleepy so they decided to get out, but, to their dismay, they realized it was too easy to hop in but now they couldn’t get out. They started to paddle, frantically. After a while, one of the frogs, said to his brother: I’m done, oh brother, there is no way we will ever make it out of here alive. The brother urged him to keep paddling although he wasn’t sure paddling would do anything to change their situation. The brother gave up and let himself sink into the milk, and drown himself. But his brother continued to paddle desperately, with tears in his eyes and after an hour, just when he was about to give up he touched something solid. The milk had become butter! He hopped out, turned back to mourn his brother and thank god for coming out alive and went back to his pond where he became a wise king.

We, just like the frogs need to learn to paddle as well.

In an age were everything seems to be quick and mighty, you need to learn the power of small, consistent, everyday action. Learn to appreciate it and to love it, because it is in those daily actions where you are going to live most of your life and it is in those daily small actions that greatness is slowly but surely brewed.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Becoming who you want to be may seem far away right now, but it’s just a matter of starting and putting in those tiny daily actions that may seem worthless and it just too easy to give up. But glory awaits those that keep going, just like the frog.

Change those happen, gradually, consistently and it is made of all those tiny daily choices you make day to day. Don’t shun them as unimportant because they are not. Everything you do matters. Keep that in mind with everything you set your mind to.

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Stoic advice

Character, our inner citadel.


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What is character?

Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men tumblr_inline_os6onoarwr1uk9lm5_500and weak men create hard times. 

Character, as defined by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a reserved force that acts by presence, and without means.

There are many roads in life, the most difficult and worthy of them require a certain kind force and attitude, a spectacle of fortitude that only a few manage to comprehend and to embody.

This is character, the powerful attitude available to anyone but attained by the few.

To comprehend character we must comprehend first gravity and trees, yes, trees.

Gravity is a roman word that comes from the latin gravitas, the romans used it to describe a man with a strong personality. A man that similated an immovable force, like a strong, unshakable pillar. 

You can see it in the face of a man that is dead serious about something.

Character is a superb business quality as it gives assurance to a man’s purpose, a man of gravity will stand for what he believes in and fight for what he wants, character is synonym with self-assurance and confidence.

Emerson also compares character with self-sufficingness.

Winston_Churchill_fbSelf-reliance is a core characteristic of a stoic character. Let us not forget that character must be independant, it must stand alone.

This solid foundation that is character can be comprehended and explained with the inner citadel  concept in stoicism.

The Inner Citadel is a fortress around your innermost self, so that externals, meaning  all the things we cannot control, are powerless against our higher sense of will and reason.

The power to do this, to put things to the test of our will and become unmovable is what constitutes a man of character. It is a virtue that must be practiced at all times.

To illustrate this idea better, Aulus Gellius describes it just perfectly.

These representations of the soul, which the philosophers call phantasiai, by which a person’s spirit is momentarily moved, at the first glimpse of the thing which presents itself to the soul: they do not depend upon the will, and are not free. Rather, by means of some kind of force which is peculiar to them, they throw themselves upon people, in order to be known. Assents, by contrast, which are called sunkatatheseis, by means of which these representations are recognized and judged, are voluntary and take place through human freedom. This is why, when a terrifying sound is heard-whether it comes from the heavens or from the collapse of some building, or whether it announces some kind of danger, or anything else of that nature it is necessary that the soul of the sage, too, be also slightly moved and constricted and terrified; not because he judges that some form of evil is present, but because of the rapid and involuntary movements, which usurp the proper task of the mind and of reason. The sage, however, does not give his assent immediately to such representations which terrify his soul; he does not approve them, but brushes them aside and rejects them, and it seems to him that there is nothing to fear from such things. This is the difference between the sage and the foolish person: the foolish person thinks that things are as they appear to the first emotion of his soul-that is to say, atrocious and frightful, and the foolish person approves by his assent these first impressions, which appear to justify his fear. But the sage, although the color of his face was briefly and rapidly altered, does not give his assent, but maintains the force and solidity of the dogma which he has always had about such representations: that they are not at all to be feared, but they terrify people by means of a false appearance and an empty terror.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that if we are capable of fear, we will readily find terrors.727-architecture-interior-old-dirty

In ultimate instance, character is a decision. Is that final freedom of which Viktor Frankl writes in A man’s search for meaning. The inner freedom of choosing to face everything that happens with a stout heart. This inner freedom that is the ultimate power to choose how we are going to face life, with virtue and courage or with fear and cowardice.

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