EXPECTATIONS OF THE GREAT SOUL

Aristotle’s “great soul,” high-minded,” “magnanimous” person expects, deserves

Great things—Which are . . . ?

The world’s greatest benefit is the attribution of honor

People find wealth, fame, and power attractive

But such things, and such people, are fatuous

The attribution of honor above all rests on the good person

Sadly, is this the way of the world?

Good people love the good, and honor attaches to love

Craving for honor can detach from love

Fatuous honor so acquired

Judgments, judgmental, praise and antipathy

The necessary tasks in self-perfection

Secular sins for psycho-babble, hence popular parlance

 

The great soul bears intervals of fortune with equanimity

And so expects not position, occupation, income

I expect, expected, position, occupation

I spat out my bitterness and contempt

“Take away the thought, ‘I have been harmed,’

“And you take away the harm.”

Taking Epictetus to heart, I rethought my expectations, my bitterness

The great soul, if he or she exist

In all things remains equanimous

I struggle; good men can

Perhaps in another world, or at another time

I’ll be at peace

Some glad morning

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Fame

Fame and success are not always meted out in a person’s lifetime.  Some great artist were relatively obscure in their own lives, and did not know that they would be important later, after their demise.  All they knew was that their work didn’t catch on.  And they were unknown–and that, for their whole lives.  They didn’t make it.

William Blake was known to some of the Romantic poets, but achieved no real fame.  Shelley wrote these verses about his own life,

Alas! I have nor hope nor health,

Nor peace within nor calm around,

Nor that content surpassing wealth

The sage in meditation found,

And walked with inward glory crowned—

Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure.

Others I see whom these surround—

Smiling they live, and call life pleasure;

To me that cup has been dealt in another measure.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had fame and money, but failed to find critical acceptance as an artist.  His greatest novel, The Great Gatsby, didn’t sell much and went out of print in a few years.  Fitzgerald died thinking himself a failure.

Now we study Blake, Shelley, and Fitzgerald in literature classes, and all these writers are considered great.  Every high school student in the United States reads The Great Gatsby.

Hemingway and T.S. Eliot had fame all through their lives, and the respect of the artistic community.  Hemingway also had wealth.  Intellectual fashion is now debating whether they are still as great as they used to be, but I suspect the laurel wreath will not be taken away in the end.

But Shelley and Fitzgerald had respect among the community of artists in their day.  Coleridge and Wordsworth knew and respected Shelley.  And Hemingway was Fitzgerald’s close friend.  Even in Hemingway’s scathing stories about Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway praises Fitzgerald as a great artist.

Fame may not be the best measure of a person’s worth.  Respect from one’s peers, self-respect, believing in oneself, and the joy of creation alone are not fame, but are abiding satisfactions in lieu of fame.  While an artist wants recognition, it is satisfying to enjoy one’s own creations privately, while perhaps also enjoying favorable reception from a few who matter.