I’m going to admit that I’m currently neck deep in Meditations with a trusty pencil so my references may be a little focussed to Marcus Aurelius for the time being. With it being so fresh in my mind, everything at the moment seems to be able to relate to something in that book.
Today for example, I was amused by 4.3:
“Look at the speed of universal oblivion, the gulf of immeasurable time both before and after, the vacuity of applause, the indiscriminate ficklesness of your apparent supporters, the tiny room in which all this is confined. The whole earth is a mere point in space: what a minute cranny within this is your own habitation, and how many and what sort will sing your praises here!”
I found the timing of truly dissecting this quote to be rather well timed with the absolute circus that is the British media at the moment. Celebrity is currency and when the individual seems to remove themselves from that economy, they are hounded by narrative bailiffs demanding more story, more image, more, more, more. And then, when control is taken back, a slither of self-determination is exerted, suddenly everyone is a creditor of sensation demanding a return.
In my life time – which is not a very long time – the term “freedom of the press” has become a dirty word abused by the cult of fame. We have come to live in a time where the opinion of the documentarian is more valued than the documented. The story is secondary to the story teller; the spotlight has turned around on itself. In 1980, I wonder if Irene Cara would ever imagine that “Fame” would, in a few short decades, no longer be the ambition of the famous or perhaps she did. How many people know her name in 2021?
Feel outrage! Feel hatred! Feel disgust! Feel for me! My opinion means more than theirs!
In my mind, unnecessarily aggressive ramblings of a famously morally bankrupt newspaper pundit has the same weight as that viral video of a young woman eating her own used tampon that did the rounds nearly a decade ago. Yet for all this theatre, what’s come of it? Does the universe blink? Do the celestial bodies slow to watch with abated breathe the fate of the British monarchy or what Piers Morgan will say next or what Gina Carano had for dinner after Disney fired her? No? So as extensions of such things, why do we? How is anyone’s Path enriched by the morbid questioning of another’s psychological experience by an unqualified Royal correspondent?
Picking up my phone, a Google phone, I swiped left to the Suggested section. It turns out that by looking up the cast of House MD to help describe it (and it’s very good by the way) to a co-worker, I now must know about Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis’ relationship. Gosh, Shaun Wallace from The Chase has taken to social media to address claims that his nickname is offensive following a debate sparked on the Lorraine chat show? This is some spicy story, MyLondon, tell me more(!).
I’m almost ashamed to say how it annoyed me, the whole situation. Perhaps it’s very un-stoic to say. But perhaps I’m more pissed about how inescapable it is: an industry borne from liberty, truth and integrity warped into a cult of celebrity and commercialised bullying. Yet, now I reflect, I think I’m less annoyed and just tired of it and cranky. If this is how I’m feeling, I can’t imagine what’s going through Meghan Markle’s head, or Princess Diana’s in 1997, or Caroline Flack’s in February of last year, or Marilyn Monroe’s in 1962. Need I go on?
“One who is all a flutter over his subsequent fame fails to imagine that all those who remember him will very soon be dead – and he too.” – Meditations 4.19
Perhaps in 2021 the advice should read (directed at the current media landscape entirely):
“One who is all a flutter over their subsequent fame fails to imagine that all those who remember them will very soon be dead – and you too.” – Me.
Tomorrow there will be another spectacle as there was for Marcus Aurelius, as he pointed out in 4.32:
“You will see everything the same. People marrying, having children, falling ill, dying fighting, feasting, trading, farming, flattering, pushing, suspecting, plotting, praying for death of others, grumbling at their lot, falling in love, storing up wealth, longing for consulships and kingships. And now that life of theirs is gone, vanished. Pass on again to the time of Trajan. Again, everything the same. That life too is dead.”
The only person to truly know an individual is that individual. The entitlement people have to know is a delusion. The entitlement to be known is a delusion. There’s a point here about Seneca to be made and his own distaste for the gladiator pits but that book is next on the list. What an angry man thinks on Good Morning Britain is sensationalist bollocks birthed from a lust to be heard and to leave some kind of everlasting mark. But who wants that mark on them?
Not I for one, nor at least two former Royals for another.